Those new to Robbers On High Street can be forgiven for thinking the band hails from jolly ol' England. Given the group's name, clear Kinks/British Invasion influences, and the vaguely accent-inflected vocals of singer/multi-instrumentalist Ben Troken, it's easy to see how some could be confused. The NYC-based lads, who originally hail from Poughkeepsie, tend to wear their limey influences on their sleeves, a fact that led some to appraise their debut, 2005's Tree City, as a tad derivative.
But on their latest long-player, Grand Animals (to be released at the end of July), they open up their sound using a range of influences. French horns, tuba, strings, and a fairly heavy dose of Rhodes keys expand R.O.H.S.'s audio palette, expanding on their previous work with a new richness.
Despite the growth on display, the songs that really stand out still tend to draw more from outside sources. "The Fatalist"'s guitar line is strongly reminiscent of the Cure's "10:15 Saturday Night," while "Crown Victoria" could be a lost Ray Davies outtake. Things get a little weirder with "You Don't Stand a Chance," which sounds like Yo La Tengo trying to get funky, complete with falsetto "ooh-ooh-ooh"s; then there's "Guard at Your Heel," a drunken NOLA funeral plugger with a melody purloined from Death Cab's "Someday You Will Be Loved." But the best track on the CD isn't as easily pigeonholed: "Your Phantom Walks the Hall" drifts along on dreamy guitars and a gently rollicking beat, as breezy as a moonlit stroll along a California beach.
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