“I never believed in the robber, I never saw nobody climb over my fence, no black bag, no gloved hand…”
As we grow older and reckon with the hypocrisies of adulthood, the world’s bitter truths have a way of shattering our preconceived notions and cozy myths about how things are, how they got that way, the nature of people, and what we’re capable of.
Every once and awhile, though, we still need a catalyst to help throw off the blinders and confront the genuine order of things head on. With “Robber”, Tamara Lindeman returns with one of these moments of reckoning. It is a restless, unsettled, shifting piece of music that barely contains its fury, indignation, sadness, and fear.
“To put it straight; there are real human people who are literally robbing us and all future generations of all of everything that matters, right now. But we literally can’t see that as a society, because for one thing we’ve been taught not to value what is taken. And for another because we’ve been taught to glamourize and love the taker.”
What stands out here is the idea that we collectively don’t understand the value of what’s been taken, and continues to be taken from so many. But it’s not surprising: Capitalism is a system that distorts value and breeds alienation, apathy, and consumption without consideration. Think of what it has taken and polluted:
Land, wilderness, communities, the integrity of the civic process, our climate, our bodies, our dignity and more recently, our sense of social self worth, privacy, and self-determination.
After enough goodness has been stripped away, it’s easy to become numb to the fact that our world is being plundered by the few at the expense of the many.
For Lindeman, how these injustices have occured stings just as much as the fact that they’re occuring at all:
“You thought a robber must hate you to wanna take from you…”
“No, the robber don’t hate you, the robber don’t hate you. He had permission – permission by words, permission of thanks, permission of laws, permission of banks, white table cloth dinners, convention centres, it was all done real carefully.”
Lindeman injects these lines with a weighted sadness as she laments the cold, calculated, systemic inhumanity and manipulation that propels capitalism onward. It is a gut-wrenching performance.
Following in the footsteps of songs like “Thirty”, Lindeman again shows her ability to tackle big themes with beauty, economy and formal precision.
With “Robber”, she focuses on expanding her sound further. While Lindeman undeniably lights the spark, the session players she gathered to fulfill her vision succeed in methodically feeding and fanning the flames:
“I gathered seven musicians in a studio; four of them rehearsed, three of them not at all, and I let those two energies of control and chance feed off each other over the course of two chords and five minutes. It was a beautiful session and I’ve never been so proud of a recording in my life.”
In the song’s isolated pocket of musical space, the primary components of control and chance are diametrically opposed, yet work beautifully together in a system that favours deference, equality, and harmony between disparate parts.
Through its construction and its content, “Robber” is a song that aims to both confront and rectify the toxic traits that capitalism’s worst actors require out of us for their unchallenged success — traits like inequality, inattention, ignorance, and passivity. With artistry and dire seriousness, Lindeman implores us to see the takers for who they are in the hopes that we will be roused to claw back some of our humanity from their ever-tightening fists.