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Un​-​Becoming

by J. Robbins

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midnight_lands
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midnight_lands The master of hard hitting and thoughtful "jangular" hard rock! Favorite track: Skeleton Coast.
Zachary Johnson
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Zachary Johnson J's compossions and production are always pleasing to my ear. The tones on this record are so perfect and the layers of sound just make it really interesting and fun to listen to and pick out the little pieces! So good so glad he's still making music. Favorite track: Un-Becoming.
Stephen Reeder
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Stephen Reeder J. Robbins has really crafted some of his best songs on this album. This album is a rocker, and although we're not likely to get a new Jawbox album any time soon, Un-becoming is one of J.'s finest efforts to date.
Kudos to his backing band, Brooks Harlan, Gordon Withers, and PETE MOFFETT! It's great to hear J. and Pete make music together. Pete's the bomb. Favorite track: Abandoned Mansions.
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about

J. Robbins has been the guitarist/singer and primary songwriter (or pushiest collaborator) in several bands since the early ’90s, including Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels, and Office of Future Plans. For the bulk of that time, he has also been active as a recording engineer/producer, working with musicians from around the world at his Baltimore-based studio, The Magpie Cage.

J. started performing as a solo artist around 2010, making occasional low-key releases on Bandcamp and contributing to two benefit compilations that were released on Germany’s Arctic Rodeo Records.

Un-Becoming -- which came together in short bursts of activity spread out over the long stretch between 2016 and 2019 -- is his first full-length solo record. On 11 of the LP’s 12 songs, J. is joined by former Burning Airlines drummer Peter Moffett, Brooks Harlan on bass, and Gordon Withers on cello and guitar.

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released May 31, 2019

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J. Robbins Baltimore, Maryland

J. Robbins has been the singer/guitarist and principal songwriter in several DC-and-Baltimore-area post-punk rock bands since the late 1980s, most notably Jawbox, Burning Airlines, and Channels. He is also owner and operator of the Magpie Cage recording studio in Baltimore MD. ... more

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Track Name: Anodyne
He drinks tears from the eyes of the true believers
They cling hard to the side of the one who threw ‘em their last line
Divine light of his ego warms their numb minds
Where is my
Anodyne, anodyne
Desperation wine
Anodyne, anodyne

Are you sick with a lack of imagination?
The gatekeepers get paid selling you what you already own
Dive, willingly blind, into the best lie
You can buy

Anodyne anodyne
Desperation wine
Anodyne anodyne
To liberate you from your mind
Anodyne anodyne
Free-est enterprise
Anodyne anodyne

First comes the crisis
to blow your doors wide
Your savior’s a salesman
who steps right inside
Quoting you prices
To keep hope alive
He leads to you a ledge
And leaves you with no goodbye

Anodyne anodyne
Desperation wine
Anodyne anodyne
To liberate me from my mind
Anodyne anodyne
Free-est enterprise
Anodyne anodyne
Track Name: Abandoned Mansions
No, the years really haven’t been kind
Central booking at sunrise
In the red at the edge of your eyes
Let it blur as you drive by

Grand abandoned mansions from a better time
Rotting out from the inside

If you dig, what d’you think you would find
It’s a tomb, not a gold mine
It’s the creche of the creatures who climb
Over each other’s bent spines

Giants in the earth and bullets in the sky
Little castles in their never-ending lines
Rotting out from the inside

If you dig what d’you think you would find

“Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie
And from the towers in the town
Death looks gigantically down” -( E.A. Poe)

Giants in the earth and bullets in the sky
Grand abandoned mansions from a better time
Bars and churches in their never-ending lines
Rotting out from the inside
Track Name: Your Majesty
The rise and fall of sanity
From your chapel ceiling
To the floor below

A masterpiece of vanity
The paint is peeling
Its a real shit show

But I wish you well
From the cell
Where I’m serving at the pleasure of your majesty
This lonely chamber of bone
Here inside, tired eyes see you
Supine on your scaffold, scratching out the scene
Where Jesus goes it alone

Sycophants recalibrate
Your diagnosis:
Accident prone

And rubberneckers celebrate
Your graduation
To the twilight zone

But I wish you well
In the cell
Where your madness is the measure of your majesty
This lonely chamber of bone
Here inside, tired eyes see you
Supine on your scaffold, scratching out the scene
Where Jesus goes it alone

Forgetting final notice to the trinity
It was always a one-man show
A feedback loop, programmed forever to receive
No code except your own
And I wish that I could feel a bit more sympathy
Or empathy, I don’t know
But then self-preservation gets the best of me
‘Cause I know you know
At the end of the show
We’re all going to go it alone
Track Name: Our Own Devices
I was talking to you
Morning light filled the room
You were listening too, then it came: the change
A living darkness that bloomed
Incarnate fear, the shape of ruin
Conjured up to consume every sign of day

I was left to my own devices
And I lost my way
Paralyzed by the kind of crisis
No one else could make

Read the maps of our scars
One by one, we won’t get far
Never smile at the dark history that leaves
Complementary wounds
Tired blood needs new
How the madness of two comes to be


When we’re left to our own devices
Will we lose our way
Tender traps, quiet crises
Crystalline displays


Cold chemistry flows inside you
Becomes what you are
Algorithms well describe you
Become what you are
And your devices, quiet beside you
Become what you are
Conquer you and divide you
Become what you are
Break the seal and burn with ardor
Become what you are
Or wait to die inside your armor
Become what you are

When we’re left to our own devices
And we lose our way
Paralyzed by the kind of crises
No one else could make
We’re all left to our own devices
And we lose our way
Tender traps, quiet crises
Crystalline displays
Track Name: Un-Becoming
Calling to all contestants, sleeping on your feet
This game’s got you beat
Dancing in circles, days into weeks

The time machine is running, burning money money money
Aren’t you dying to take it for a ride
You're surely not the first to want to throw it in reverse
Destination: 1929

Get your guns, run to greet the gilded age
Un-becoming, we peel the layers away
To brittle bones, decades of decay
Then we trade
The mirror for the masquerade

No bread, just vicious circuses, to overload your circuits til you miss what’s right before your eyes
All the medication in this karaoke nation couldn’t make you see the other side

21 guns to greet the gilded age
Un-becoming, we peel the layers away
To brittle bones, decades of decay
Then we trade
Getting sane for getting paid
The mirror for the masquerade

When all of your buried corpses finally start to speak
They tell you the Earth inherits the meek

21 guns to greet the gilded age
Un-becoming, we peel the layers away
To brittle bones, decades of decay
Then we trade
Getting sane for getting paid
The mirror for the masquerade
Track Name: Radical Love
The world that you closed your eyes in?
At daybreak it turned upside down
The new normal hangs over you like a shroud
And shared assumptions just confound you
Future ruins surround you
You need an extraordinary love

When you’ve had more than enough
Of whatever damage was done
Believe in radical love

Spinning around and around and there’s nothing to cushion your fall
The script in your hand tells you nothing at all
Old habits and sentiment won’t save you
From the poison they gave you
Only an extraordinary love
Track Name: Skeleton Coast
The sky is too bright and the world’s too wide
But the view’s simplified from a hunting blind

Defending the great divides
You’ll die at your post
God’s in the rising tide
On your skeleton coast
Burn the boats

Daydream an empire’s endless rise
Where demons are named, then they’re sacrificed

The cult of the last goodbye
Collectively alone
Cold waters rise, divide
This archipelago

Dead island of your calcifying soul
Bit by a bitter vision of control
Who told you there was nowhere else to go?

Sheltering with your ghosts
In some leviathan’s bones

Bleaching in the sun
You're afraid of your shadow
I think you must know

There is a world outside your head
You are not dreaming, you’re not yet dead

Defending the great divides
You’ll die at your post
God’s in the rising tide
On your skeleton coast
The cult of the last goodbye
Collectively alone
Watching the water rise
Track Name: Soldier On
The rich embrace their destiny, the poor are stuck with fate
All your life’s the coming true of fictions you create
In the trenches of the little wars that subdivide your days
Soldier on
Soldier on
Life is long
Soldier on

Your solitude is solid gold, you’re owned, you’re on your own
Your blood is in their chalice, (they) build a palace on your bones
Sing on through the struggle to your still unbroken soul:
Soldier on
Soldier on
Life is long
Soldier on

One more tomorrow
Heart in armor, anodized
Real joy, true sorrow
While they conquer and divide

Freezing in the shadows of the fascists and the fakes
Shocks to beat you down again, how much awe can you take
But hammer into anvil, it’s the hammer that will break
Soldier on
Soldier on
Life is long
Soldier on
Track Name: Citizen
You hit the jackpot, if all you wanted was to have all the answers
True or false, curse or a gift?
That easy certainty seduces and enchants us
Now we’re in the grifter’s grip

You’ve seen my papers, isn’t everything in order?
Am I in no position to resist?
For some transcendence is the burning of the borders;
Some think playing with their shit
Is the pinnacle of wit

Unlearn the Internationale
We’re citizens of nowhere now

And empathy merits you a blank stare
When you’re a citizen of nowhere
Born on the wrong side of the drawbridge, and it’s locked up tight, alright?

Should I keep hoping for the best?
Or for the Masque of the Red Death?

Unlearn the Internationale
We’re citizens of nowhere now
Burn your ID, now take a bow
We’re citizens of nowhere now

And when they meet you with that blank stare
You know you’re a citizen of nowhere
Disconnected and left to rot - O Theresa, maybe, maybe not

I dreamed that I was born again as a corporation
Fuck The Future, LLC
I got full benefits with my reincarnation
Oh I never felt so free

Unlearn the Internationale
We’re citizens of nowhere now
Remit remains to neutral ground
We’re citizens of nowhere now
Track Name: Firelight
When the nights grow long
Where money’s always been the only law
A chill gets in your bones, you feel so alone
Exiled into the forbidden zone
You need firelight
To beat back the night
And nothing burns as brightly as a flag
Set alight
By firelight
It’s red when you let the fresh air in
Like blood that runs blue beneath white skin

Get the kerosene
We’ll warm our hands, we’ll make a festive scene
Orange, black and green, for all it means
It’s just a curtain ‘round a crime scene
So what is it you
Pledge allegiance to
You want the gift, or just the wrapping?
And all your misplaced pride
Is a consolation prize
I think you’d better throw it on the fire
We need the light
Firelight
Is red when you let the fresh air in
Like blood that runs blue beneath white skin
And fire will always need feeding
Not promises no one is keeping
Track Name: Stella Vista
Sleepless and endless night
Are you living alone
Or with an unholy host
Of epigenetic ghosts?

Staggering down the hall
As they change the shape of the walls
Go only where allowed
Here in your haunted house
Take the spiral ladder down
Til you’re lost or found

Or just start over again
In the haze of the civil twilight
In roles we’ll re-write to the end
But that’s no way to live your life

Echoing over you
Never fading to black
Inexplicable appetites
Ancestral parasites
Bait you and gently bite
With their wrong and right

Price of their paradise
A glimpse, can you get it back
History’s not in the ground
It’s in your bloodstream, flowing round
Bleeds through like sound on sound

Or just start over again
In the haze of the civil twilight
In roles we’ll re-write to the end
But that’s no way to live your life


Can you see the end of never never again?
Fall back into the fold
Can you see the end of never never again?
You were born for the role

Internal
External
Eternal
Returning
Keeps turning
And turning

Or just start over again
In the haze of the civil twilight
In roles we’ll re-write to the end
But that’s no way to live your life

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