With production, playing and songwriting assistance by Graham Elvis (Walker, and, in a lesser capacity, his two Elvis Brothers bandmates), Chicago singer/songwriter Darren Robbins (no relation) makes a sterling debut with Steals Your Girlfriend, a sprightly collection of pure-pop/rock tunes. Robbins has a versatile voice and an engaging, lightweight musical personality; making the most of simple ingredients and crude facilities, he comes up with a high percentage of winners here, including drummer Brad Elvis (Steakley)’s sardonic “Get Out of My Life (I Can Mess It Up Myself),” Walker’s magical “Try for a Miracle” and Robbins’ own plaintive “Fire From a Stone” and “Travel Long My Wanderin’ Heart.” As much a showcase for the star’s solid skills as an indication of the Elvis Brothers’ talent, Steals Your Girlfriend is a delight.
Billing himself as Time Bomb Symphony and working with power pop kingpin Adam Schmitt, Robbins finally released a follow-up album, the dismayingly titled but musically satisfying If You See Kay, nearly a decade later. The second TBS release, an equally fine example of breathy power pop with a strong vein of self-criticism and loneliness, was co-produced by Schmitt (who augments Robbins’ singing and guitar-playing with guitar and keys; Rob and Brad Elvis are also on hand). Greatness Hits is a reissue of it with two additional songs and new artwork.
Now based in Los Angeles, Destroy the Heart is Robbins’ latest nom de rock; in partnership with Schmitt (between them, they played all the instruments on the self-titled disc; Schmitt produced in his Illinois home studio) he delivers the most affectingly resonant creations of his career. Scraping real profundity in both melody and lyric, the beautifully sung “Drop My Guard” is a haunting love song that (in a good way) calls to mind John Waite’s “Missing You.” The majestic “Never Stop Loving You” is a declaration that may or may not be romantically posthumous, but the heartbreak of “My First Night Without You” is clear, a stirring drama of emotional devastation that declines to to assign, or assuage, guilt. A really special record.