Tim Robbins And The Rogues Gallery Band: Tim Robbins And The Rogues Gallery Band
Actors making the switch to musicianship isn’t a new concept and perhaps rightfully critics tend to go a bit harder on these people than most. Thankfully, Tim Robbins And The Rogues Gallery Band are one of the few exceptions that cannot immediately be placed into a box.
This self-titled debut features nine tracks of self-described “raggle taggle and rousing gypsy Americana.” Think Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska)-meets-Robbie Robertson-meets-The Pogues. The album features guest musicians and collaborators like Leo Abrahams, David Coulter, Roger Eno, Kate St. John, Rory McFarlane, Andrew Newmark and Dudley Phillips.
“You’re My Dare,” the most widely-released track on the album thus far, is a waltz-like, mandolin-filled love song featuring Joan Wasser on backing vocals. “Toledo Girl,” aka “love as a car crash,” is a somber, piano-filled, driving song while “Queen of Dreams,” a seemingly-uplifting folk track with Irish roots, provides a creative, lyrical journey with a simile-filled chorus.
Many musicians prefer not to talk openly regarding what their songs are about, but Robbins was wise in commenting on the nature of several tracks. For example, “Book of Josie” is a song written about Mary Magdalene’s relationship with Jesus as an apostle, inspired by Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels. “Lightning Calls” was written after Robbins met Nelson Mandela. “Time to Kill” is a song written from the perspective of a disturbed soldier who just returned home from war, influenced by a conversation Robbins had with a G.I.
Perhaps the most transformative track on the album is “Crush On You,” a song that personally went from dull to beautiful once I knew the story behind it. (The song surrounds an openly proud homosexual boy from California who told another man he had a crush on him, resulting in disaster).
The only true flaw I found with this record was that certain tracks did not magnify Robbins’ vocals enough; with an already rough, fragile tone, this made certain songs hard to decipher.
Overall, it may be hard to praise this record, especially when the lead singer/songwriter is a former actor, but you should, at minimum, recognize the superb story-telling at work here, on both an indigenous and spiritual level.