The Phantom Band - Fears Trending

by Steve Reynolds Rating:9 Release Date:2015-01-26

Six years ago I distinctly remember being overcome by the all-round goodness and glee when I heard The Phantom Band’s debut, Checkmate Savage, a brilliant slice of Krautrock rhythms cross-pollinated with quirky, offkilter guitar, Rick Anthony’s morose delivery and abnormal musical arrangements. Such was its intensity it was one of the best debut albums I had heard for a decade.

Now here’s a thing. I have to confess I haven’t paid any attention at all to album three. Don’t ask me why, I guess I just got dragged into listening to other stuff, perhaps I am in need of some redemption. OK, I am a bad person but on the other hand, maybe, just maybe, it might avoid distracting me from forming any preconceived ideas of what lies before me, their fourth album ‘Fears Trending’.  So like a ship without a rudder and nothing to guide me since their 2010 sophomore album I am intrigued what their newie has to offer.

From the early strains of opener ‘Tender Castle’ the familiarity of their debut continues to prevail.  A dystopian bee sounding synth niggles away and then some tiki taki drumstick tickles away, it slowly layers up with a kaleidoscope of electronic bleeps and assortments, basically anything the band can lay their hands on they inject into the song. It’s like one continual jam that concludes 5 minutes later when the band decides to call time.

The Phantom band has never been one to delve into short ditties, but rather enjoy the freedom of sitting on one of Scotland’s finest purveyor of music, Chemikal Underground.  There are only 7 tracks on ‘Fears Trending’ with the shortest track weighing in 4 and a half minutes.  You might be thinking this breeds songs of self-indulgence and imbues a slacker work ethic but you’ll soon forgive them when you listen to such meddling beauties as the barmy make up of ‘Local Zero’ with its rise and fall simplicity and the soaring ‘Denise Hopper’, made up of motoric muscular percussion, clanging guitar and over-zealous bravado from Rick Anthony’s deep dark baritone delivery.  It’s the highlight of the album, lodged perfectly at track 3.

‘Black Tape’ is much darker, saturated in sophoric doom and haunting melancholy initially but then like a proverbial phoenix from the flames it blasts out shards of golden light before returning to its original dusky starting point. ‘Spectrelegs’ is similarly brazen and scatty but with a whipping guitar riff and ugly as hell synth complete with a plethora of clean beautiful lines. ‘The Kingfisher’ is Nick Cave like, masterful, bullish and domineering; it displays a band with no nerves and inexorable confidence, all beautifully pulled together by a pushy organ.

They see us out with ‘Olden Golden’, initially pushed by a jittery banjo but Anthony’s cold as hell delivery warms up as the song grows.  The drums start to pound with each snare as he tells us “still dark and on your door, for what remains the final piece of the shell”.  Moribund maybe, but each finite amount of detail in their sound cannot fail to uplift.

The Phantom Band doesn’t have any rules for their idiosyncratic output.  They seem intent on creating their own madness and it's their take on madness that I am in deep with - warts and all.

 

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