New Yorkers Disguise Covert Flyover Pop in Brit-Hipster Trappings


Though Robbers on High Street’s name suggests illegally obtained
Vespas and London tube maps, the New York four-piece isn’t remotely
British. While many of their local contemporaries may be faking
accents and aping icy Mancunian synth lines, these boys play something
decidedly sunnier.

In fact, the infectious melodies and wealth of diminished seventh
chords on the Robbers’ debut, Tree City, almost play like Maroon 5 for
kids too cool to be seen with Songs About Jane. “Beneath the Trees,”
built around insistent, funkily dissonant piano chords and winding
minor-key guitars, is the Robbers’ “This Love”—a darkly syncopated
tune about the end of a relationship. ROHS, however, manage to sex up
the neutered blandness with the biting nasality of Ben Trokan’s urgent
Elvis Costello impersonation.

Elsewhere, the album delves into classic-rock territory, evoking Billy
Joel’s unadorned piano rolls and Chicago’s brassy horns. Yet like
Spoon, ROHS put slacker lyrics (“What else am I supposed to do, smoke
cigarettes and brood?”) into story songs about titular characters.
Their “Amanda Green,” who “can be so cold to me,” might even be a good
match for Spoon’s “Jonathan Fisk,” who “speaks with his fists”—neither
sounds particularly dateable.