Label: Say Hey Records Release date: 18/05/09 Website: Buy: Amazon How many times has an artist came along and blown your mind with an absolute surefire banger, and then they somehow manage to go and follow that stupendously brilliant song with a whole heap of redundant sound spam? Personally I can recall one significant moment from a couple of years ago when I heard ‘Hang Me Up to Dry’ by the Cold War Kids, the brilliance of the song convinced me to check out the bands album, so I wandered down to my local Andys Records branch utterly convinced that Robbers & Cowards would deliver another dose of joy. It didn’t and I was crushed with disappointment. Whilst driving down a country lane with the album playing loud in my car, I became underwhelmed to the point that foolishly in a rage I chucked the CD out of my window, the flying disc of mediocrity hit a Country rambler square in the kisser, sending the fuzz on my case. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (let’s call him MBAR from now on) is a singer-songwriter from Brooklyn who has been championed by the likes of Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor and TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone. The song that opens this album ‘Buriedfed’ got everybody’s hype feelers tingling when it was released last year, with insightful dry lyrics that describe Robinson observing himself at his own funeral "I'm not sure that I want to stay alive. It's so expensive. It's cheap to die." It’s a euphoric confessional campfire song that is vibrant and surprisingly upbeat. Utterly magnificent! Remarkably MBAR has no further bullets left in the chamber; the album descends into a messy tirade of swiftly recorded live takes, songs captured in the moment, ragged to the point of being inauthentic. The trouble with troubadours is that they need their character to shine through on record; Tow Waits plays the vaudevillian barfly, Bonnie Prince Billy the misanthropic doom monger, Jeffrey Lewis the geeky DIY dreamer, what I’m trying to say is that listening to MBAR makes you wonder whether they brew Moonshine in Brooklyn. After listening to this album you’re not really sure who he is or where he’s from. Turns out Robinson has battled with drug and alcohol addiction, and spent a spell homeless, he also underwent plenty of frustration from playing with various bands that never caught a break in the New York shark tank. When he was interviewed by MBAR went out of his way to distance himself from his previous lifestyle “This album is not about being homeless in New York. Maybe if we're having a beer sometime we can bullshit about our past and tell drug stories but the repeated discussion of them in relation to talking about my music is beginning to bore me. I HAVE DONE A SHIT TON OF DRUGS AND I USED TO SLEEP OUTSIDE SOMETIMES. I ATE FOOD OUT OF THE GARBAGE AND SAVED FOUND CHANGE TO BUY MALT LIQOUR. IF YOU DON'T ALREADY HATE THIS STORY YOU WILL SOON. Oh the unshakeable stench of cliché that surrounds me”. If this is the case then Robinson struggles to even express his experiences indirectly, or exorcize his demons through ‘characters’. Unlike Beck who relayed his experience as a homeless musician in ‘Loser’, or Steve Earle’s Train a Comin’ which came along after Earle subjected his body to a “shit ton of drugs” and the renewed strength of Billie Holiday’s voice, so full of coarse character in the 1950s after her addiction troubles, Robinson plays the card but never turns it over. There are hundreds of examples of musicians recounting their own experiences of homelessness and drug abuse figuratively and metaphorically. You wonder, if this album is not about Robinson’s personal experiences then what the hell is it about? The raggedy Neil Young-when-he-lets-his-hair-down sound of ‘Woodfriend’ suggests maybe Robinson is a disgruntled hipster on the road to ruin. The drowsy junkie ballad of ‘Who’s Laughing’ dampens spirits, a dragged out mournful sense of self loathing soon creeps throughout the album, it is projected further on ‘Written Over’ a song loaded with self pity “My face in the dirt / my ass in the sky / I was looking at love / she was passing me by”. Speaking as a fellow self-saboteur, when you do get a chance to deliver an artistic rebuttal to your own demon doubts, and answer the unwanted concerned of others you really need to drive your message home. Robinson is enigmatic without being interesting; he bares his soul but at the same time buries it in denial. Personally he may well have exorcised a few demons but this album is really painful to listen to, it doesn’t take you on a journey, and unlike most singer-songwriters you are unable to see things vicariously through MBAR’s eyes. A former junkie has mainlined onto a different kind of self indulgence, and by doing so he completely neglects the listener. Rating: 4/10