Well respected and successful as a Hollywood actor and director, Tim Robbins comes from a heritage rooted as much in music as acting. His father Gilbert was a musician, and member of folk group The Highwaymen during Tim’s formative years, so it would appear that this album is satisfying some long-term artistic “itch”.
Having assembled a band of well regarded musicians that includes Kate St John, Leo Abrahams, David Coulter, Roger Eno, Rory McFarlane, Andrew Newmark and Dudley Phillips, it remains to be seen if Robbins Junior has the ability to genuinely follow in his father’s footsteps, or whether he in fact made the correct career choice by opting to take the thespian route.
Noticeable right from the off is the weakness of Robbins’ vocal. Particularly on opening track Book Of Josie, but also much in evidence on Dreams, Toledo Girl, Crush On You and Lightning Calls, Robbins struggles at times to simply hold a tune. At times breathy with affected anguish (You’re My Dare), at others obviously attempting to impersonate Bob Dylan (You’re My Dare) or Bruce Springsteen (Time To Kill, Toledo Girl), this doesn’t make for very easy or enjoyable listening. On Queen Of Dreams he even appears to be aiming for The Pogues with a strange cod-Irish Shane McGowan impression.
A lot of the lyrics are centred around the idea of an elusive, unobtainable or idealised “she”. Often hugely pretentious, there is an air of self-importance about these songs (and indeed much of this project) that’s hard to warm to. So the opening track sees our hero “Walking from history” across “the Holy Land”, in a quest for she of the “sacred eyes”. Toledo Girl effects an excruciating couplet that rhymes “dancing in your skin” with “heroin”. Moment In The Sun, perhaps the worst culprit, is one of those unintentionally disturbing tracks where, by referring to the girl as “little girl” and so on, it is unclear if Robbins is singing to a lover or a daughter. Also worth noting is how many times this song uses “I” and “I’ll”, for a track that is meant to be a declaration of affection for someone else.
The musical accompaniment is proficient, likeable, gentle Americana which is perhaps the only genuine and enjoyable thing about this album. Otherwise, sad to say, it does pretty much have “Rich Actor’s Vanity Project” stamped all over it. The curious would do best to avoid, and die-hard Robbins fans better advised to watch one of his multitude of films.