The Phantom Band - The Wants
released 18 October 2010 on Chemikal Underground
Employing a cornucopia of instruments on your record can be a dangerous game. There’s a danger of coming across like hyperactive children (see Architecture In Helsinki) or giving the impression of masking inferior quality songs (see Tunng). Luckily neither of those fates have befallen Glasgow’s The Phantom Band.
Following last year’s critically-acclaimed Checkmate Savage comes The Wants, recorded over a period of six months in Chemikal Underground’s South Lanarkshire studio. This record showcases how The Phantom Band combine the best of both worlds: simple yet strong writing, with an intrinsically curious invention that belies that this is only their second record. On the surface, this isn’t much to get excited about, but each of these songs are pushed to their limits, given appropriate time to build, mature, and conclude. With only nine tracks, its 48 minutes rush by with barely an ounce of spare fat on them, seldom threatening to spill over into prog-rock excess.
First track, A Glamour, opens with a sawing sound (the tuning of a baliphone, apparently) and skittering tuned percussion before breaking into a glam-rock stomp reminiscent of Super Furry Animals’ Golden Retriever. In fact, SFA are probably the group most analogous to this band, with their delightfully skewed pop and fondness for electronic flourishes.
The Phantom Band pull off a neat trick that few bands manage to execute convincingly: pulling in a barrel-load of influences whilst remaining more than the sum of their parts. Pastoral folk, stark industrial and disco funk all get an airing, and at various points throughout the record The Phantom Band sound like Roxy Music, Joy Division, Arab Strap and The Futureheads.
The Wants has a tendency to play the same card a little too often, but there is enough light and shade to stave off boredom. Vocalist Rick Anthony croons like a Caledonian Nick Cave on the tender Come Away In The Dark, while The None Of One has a genuinely thrilling change of pace halfway through. The highlight comes at the end of the record, as brutally distorted marching drums combine with Gregorian chant to provide an exhilarating climax to final track, Goodnight Arrow. It’s heartening to see a keen study of popular music alongside the confidence to try new things.