After 3 years of gigging and grafting since their self-titled debut EP in 2016, Train Robbers have returned with a fresh release in Expect Delays. Bringing along their signature approach that has been charming audiences: London lyrical, sharp comical, and laidback philosophical. Their funk based hip hop style is always fun, the music has that spot on combo of being able to both kick off and chill you out, from live shows to foggy rooms...
Artwork by Drawdon
Expect Delays immediately signifies city-living with the apt train station announcements on 'Platform One', laying out the journey of song titles you’re about to travel along, with plenty of these little interludes keeping you on track. The duo of Bucket Hat Jack and Casa Blanca are able to effortlessly jump from comedy to thought-provoking questioning of reality. On the surface, Train Robbers might appear a caricaturising of British youths but underneath you can hear the open-minded and world-weary insights into how many young people actually see themselves in 2019, uninterested in the “synthetic living” of our corporately globalised and social media obsessed society (‘Fast Food’ feat. Cracker Jon).
The playful rappers vocalise their desire to be “rap star[s] with less guns and more girls in the back of [our] car” in ‘Elevator Music’ but swiftly throw bars down showing that they have a more mature perspective on life’s priorities: “No matter how big the bling is, we still value the time we’re on”. Adventuring through life in London, the duo navigate careers, music, and socialising but, most importantly, focus on escapism. There’s frequent reflections on why they are who they are, pondering what shapes people but also what confines people - from religion to business: “Is there a god? Maybe there is and maybe there’s not, rather spend my time wondering than be stuck in a job.”
All of this humorous yet cerebral pondering is carried by the pairs quick and animated flow, both rappers dropping honest opinions on some funk-fuellled beats. Their tracks feel reminiscent of some 90s American hip hop beats but with a modern British eccentricity, something like A Tribe Called Quest / Brand Nubian era meets film director Edgar Wright. Train Robbers hit home their musical influences on ‘Old School’ pretty clearly saying “We like our old school shit” and “I’m all about the funk and the soul”. They’re not superficial nostalgia lovers for nostalgia’s sake though, they know the importance of well-made and produced music instead of factory-made formulas, emulating how many of us often feel when listening to the charts or entering a shite club.
“Better be playing me all the classics, no deep house or cheap bangers sounding weaker like a Hollyoaks cliffhanger. Keep the old vibes rolling like Mick Jagger.” - ‘Old School’
The jazzy jams aren’t all these gents have to offer though, their lyrical landscape examines much of British society and the push back from younger generations, having grown up in a world of access to information. All of this with a hefty dose of taking the piss, consistently bang on in their witty observations. Train Robbers point out in ‘Breaks Gone’ that what’s driving their sound is to “Come together over old school beats, if music fuels the mind then words feed the release”, appropriate when London’s very own wordsmith Verb T (also of The Four Owls) has a feature on this track.
Also guesting on the album, neo-soul singer Tiece appears on 'Tales of The Tracks, Pt. 2', with it’s jazzy Common style bass and Tiece’s damn catchy hook “The Train Robbers know everybody wanna get high and what a hell of a life, you just need to let go”, drumming in the duo’s mantra of escapism. Frequent collaborator Cracker Jon also features on ‘Fast Food’, it's G-funk bassline fused with some eerie background keys over a heavy beat, adding weight to their remarks like “all marketing and board decisions, free Britain, why are we staying broke in a soulless Britain?”.
For "a couple kids from the sticks here to scare your mums" the Train Robbers make friends pretty well, talented ones at that. Collaboration breeds creativity and artists can flourish in it, something they value: “everybody’s trying to bite the head of the beast but if we tag team this bitch it’ll be better with ease”.
The rappers don’t take themselves too seriously but they make plenty of serious points, mixing daft fun with stirring opinions, “Constantly trippin’, the brain’s been leaking, pour the liquid contents into knowledge that we’re eating”. Despite their thirst for knowledge and understanding, Train Robbers seem to conclude that what’s most important is letting loose, being free, and trying to remember that. Plus a punchline quip wherever possible. I like to think of them as silly philosophers, sillosophers if you will.
Purchase a limited run of the album here, with artwork by Drawdon.
Train Robbers are Bucket Hat Jack and Casa Blanca.
'Expect Delays' is also available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.