“Songs about Drinking and Dying” – Spencer Robinson
Written by Madeline Happold
The former Lords of Altamont bass player cuts the crap with his debut solo album Standing at the Edge of the World. Deadpanned and frank, Spencer Robinson describes his album simply as “songs about drinking and dying.” What more could listeners want.
Robinson’s voice is rough like leather and smooth like whiskey. Drawing on the bottom-heavy beats of The Birthday Party and the gritty growl of Tom Waits, Robinson’s sound works from the gut up. Starting with the titular track “Standing at the Edge of the World,” Robinson infuses Western and blues style guitar riffs to accompany a fierce storyline of a ride-or-die relationship. In the song’s final verse the pair “jump right off the edge,” descending into a bleak unknown together.
A fall from Earth raises hell, and the album proceeds with “Say Hello to the Devil.” An homage to the cruel and crooked, Robinson recounts grislier memories of “heaven, hell, and war” to a twisted world. Like the Charlie Daniels Band’s devil from Georgia, deals with the devil are ill-fated affairs and Robinson echoes a warning: “say hello to the devil/and goodbye to your soul.”
“Tunica” follows with earthly lust– a jaded gambler searching for greed and coming up short. Drawing on themes from previous tracks, Robinson’s coarse voice murmurs “got the devil on my tail/but I ain’t dead.” Treading the line between light and dark, sanity and insanity, Robinson continually returns to the obscurity of the edge of the world.
Yet “Spider” takes a tonal shift, starting soft and airy with a simple guitar melody contrasting the album’s previous sound. Like a fable, the song describes an encounter with a recluse spider, offering the moral that “everybody get tired/when day turns to night/from spinning their webs/and catching their flies.” Gentle, the spider is a sympathetic character despite its usual disgust. Like a skeleton, Robinson allows the spider to roam his mouth and face, treating it with compassion it often does not receive. The unlikely pair form a connection. Tired, outcast and beaten down, the experience adds a hint of humanity to the darkness.
Rounding out the album with “Don’t Need No Jesus,” Robinson infuses a pulsing drumline with smooth, slow guitar chords to suggest a battle of power and peace. He repeats “I don’t see no angels/I don’t need no Jesus,” questioning faith. Yet the strength in his growl holds defiance. It’s an understanding that the world breeds complexity and sometimes the bad is needed as much as the good.
From the edge of the world to hell and back again, Robinson’s debut album Standing at the Edge of the World questions sanity, morality and sin. With over five years experience with the Lords of Altamont, Robinson’s solo album shows his ability to walk alone and invites listeners to follow along the drifter’s ride.
He may even offer a drink or two.
Listen to "Standing at the Edge of the World" on Soundcloud, iTunes and Tidal. Find limited edition cassette tapes of the album here.
Photos courtesy of Spencer Robinson. Contact Madeline at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Instagram.