So real, so raw, so good
People have got to tip their hats off to Washington D.C.’s J. Robbins for the simple fact that the man has helmed five bands—that we know of—since his genesis as the bassist of hardcore-punk band Government Issue. Each group he has been involved in has benefited from his do-or-die approach to music, a rawness that is hard to find in today’s musical landscape. Jawbox is the standout of his many groups, and they recently reunited for a twelve-stop summer tour, their first time together in ten years.
So, what would a man ready to embark on a nationwide tour be doing right now? An average man would be preparing for the said tour. J. Robbins? He would be releasing his first solo album, of course.
Un-Becoming is everything that makes J. Robbins great: the album is edgy, unapologetic and fucking real. The title track tiptoes to a spooky piano intro and then straight up kicks your ears in with solid bass, reverb-drenched vocals and loaded drums. The instrumentation in “Kintsugi” is splendid, moody and very much in tune with the art form that the song is named after. “Radical Love” is the track of people’s post-breakup nights, in the company of their choice of liquor. “Soldier On” is the power-pop indulgence, and by the time you get to “Stella Vista,” you get the picture.
Robbins strips down here, leaving nothing to chance. Yes, there are contributions from familiar folks like Brooks Harlan (War On Women) and Peter Moffett (Government Issue and Wool), but J. Robbins’ production and direction are blasted all over the LP. The album is far from being crude, yet it feels so harsh at the same time. J. Robbins knows how to engineer an album that packs a punch and feels authentic, without relying on lo-fi recording techniques or purposely jammed in sounds for the sake of “creativity.”
The music speaks for itself here, just the way J. Robbins would want it to do. For a man who has spent the majority of his life in music—who is fifty-two years old at the time of this write-up—he seems to have a lot of energy. Un-Becoming may not necessarily go down as the greatest record of 2019, but it will go down as the greatest J. Robbins record of 2019, and for J. Robbins and his fans, that is good enough.