Rock music gets a lot of adjectives attached to it -- punk, emo, pop, techno, alt-country -- but sometimes people just want to hear good, no-frills rock-and-roll. Take "Tree City," the full-length debut by the quartet known as Robbers on High Street. This 13-song CD of brash tunes shows off the energy and swagger of a band that grew up with the classics. The band's sound evokes comparisons with John Lennon, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks.
As member Ben Trokan says in the group's press biography, "When Steve [Mercado] and I first started writing together, we wanted to sound like Led Zeppelin, but we couldn't write stuff like that because we'd listened to too much Beatles as kids." Trokan's piano lessons also have led to tunes that have strong melodic currents beneath tough rock rhythms.
Robbers on High Street began winning over New York City audiences during the summer of 2002, but Trokan and Mercado were childhood pals in the Upstate New York town of Poughkeepsie. After high school, Trokan moved to the city, where he met and began playing with drummer Tomer Danan. Then Mercado reconnected with an old school friend, Jeremy Phillips, who came aboard on bass.
After releasing an EP, "Fine Lines," and touring as a support band for national acts appearing at venues such as the 9:30 club, the Robbers entered the studio with producer Peter Katis to create "Tree City." Even with a CD's worth of tunes to choose from, it's still possible that the Robbers may perform a cover of "Watch Out for the Man," a song written by the night's opening act, the King of France. The two New York-based bands are good friends.
The King of France's self-titled debut also rocks with a purist's heart, offering songs that echo the influence of the Talking Heads, the Velvet Underground and the Beatles.
The King of France also dates its origins to 2002, when vocalist Steve Salad moved to New York from Minneapolis (where he led the band Deformo and played with the Kelley Deal 6000). While playing solo acoustic shows in the East Village, Salad met drummer Michael Azerrad, a veteran music journalist. Together, the two began creating spontaneous songs they dubbed "improv pop." Former Deformo sideman Tom Siler joined for gigs all over New York and helped record the album but left soon after to pursue an advanced degree in applied forensic illustration.
The remaining duo create a dynamic stage show, with Salad oozing Vegas lounge-act cool and stand-up comic audacity while Azerrad fiercely tears at his drum kit.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
IOTA Club and Cafe is at 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Admission is $11 and limited to those 21 and older with valid ID. Tickets are not sold in advance. For more information, call 703-522-8340 or visit www.iotaclubandcafe.com.
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