As the end of his second decade in music approaches, J. Robbins has avoided the irrelevance that strikes many musicians after they’ve been around for a long time. Fortunately for Robbins, we’ve never had to insert the word “too” in front of “long.” From Government Issue to the untouchable Jawbox and then to the mostly-better-than-good Burning Airlines, Robbins has remained on the top of the heap creating literate post-hardcore.
With Channels, Robbins brings along the same aesthetic that drove his previous outfits. But with Janet Morgan, formerly of Shonben, and Darren Zentek, ex-drummer of Kerosene 454, the band is rounded out by musicians who are of the caliber to drive the music on equal footing. This isn’t to say that Robbins has played with chumps in the past. But at this point in his career, he has smartly hooked up with musicians he can instantly gel with.
Open starts off inauspiciously. You get exactly what you would expect to get from a band fronted by Robbins — jagged guitars and tough vocals. But by the fourth track, “Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend,” it’s clear that nepotism didn’t play a role in Morgan’s addition to the band. Her astute bass work and vocals provide a comforting yin to Robbins rockier yang. “To Mt. Wilson from the Magpie Cage” sees Morgan guiding the entire song, making it her own.
With Channels, Robbins and his band approach things from the same stage, but with different ideas. The lyrics are his most politically charged to date, and the band sounds like they just put out their second album, not their first EP. J. Robbins has a number of projects under his belt, but each one effectively stands alone. Channels is no different.