Album Reviews

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

(Transgressive) UK release date: 18 May 2009

It takes some nerve to title an album after your full birth name, but such is the bare naked sincerity of Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson’s debut that really no other title seems adequate.

Robinson has been promoted on the internet gossip columns through the patronage of various members of Grizzly Bear, not least Chris Taylor, who produces the album. A meaty back story has also helped Robinson’s profile, though whether homelessness and addiction can be viewed as newsworthy in this day and age is a moot point.

The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter must stand or fall on the quality of his songs, and there is certainly enough about this album to indicate that Robinson may just be another Conor Oberst in the making.

This album has been available in America since the end of 2008 but is only now making its way over to these shores. Opening track Buriedfed might already be familiar. It’s a wryly observed view of the writer’s own funeral that builds from an acoustic opening into a ramshackle indie rocker.

Robinson’s mordant lyricism is carried over to the second track, The Debtor, which opens with the line “Can’t stop the bleeding” and barely lightens up with couplets such as “I’m not sure that I want to stay alive/it’s so expensive, it’s cheap to die”.

Robinson and Taylor conveniently mix in some fully-fledged guitar rock to break up the stoned torpor that sometimes threatens to overwhelm the album. Woodfriend and The Ongoing Debate Concerning Present Vs. Future snap and crackle with electric tension and even find room for a couple of slapdash guitar solos in the vein of Neil Young with Crazy Horse.

Who’s Laughing? is adroitly placed between these two tracks, its restrained country ramble neatly mirroring the ebb and flow of the junkie lifestyle that informs the lyrical content of the album.

My Good Luck rumbles along in a very Bright Eyes kind of manner but marks the last of the up tempo moments on the album. Written Over ushers in a thoroughly dispiriting sequence of songs that are the heartbeat of the album’s lyrical message, with a chorus of ragged voices pleading for redemption from hell’s ditch.

At times it is all a bit too much, with lines such as “my face in the dirt/my ass in the sky” and “I don’t eat much, mainly skin” drifting into a junkie vernacular that leaves the casual listener cold.

Give Robinson the chance to develop as an artist and we may be witnessing the beginnings of an interesting career. For now though, this debut album serves as an indication of an artist in the making.

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