Phantom Planet - Phantom Planet 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Friday, 04 June 2004

Phantom Planet

Phantom Planet
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Epic/Daylight
release year: 2003
performance: 7
sound 6
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

To bastardize a tune by Diana Ross and the Supremes: “Baby, baby, where did our pop go?” Or to practice a little more silly revisionist history, this time with The Beach Boys: “We sure had fun, fun, fun, till The Strokes took our tunes away.” If you haven’t guessed it already, Phantom Planet -- formerly a power pop band -- has all but abandoned its previously bright and melodic sound. This new self-titled album should include a disclaimer that reads, “Sing along at your own risk.”

Back in the 70s, The Only Ones had a hit called “Another Girl, Another Planet.” An alternate title for this one might have been, “Another Album, Another Phantom Planet.” Yep, this one has “And now for something completely different” written all over it. Instead of containing memorable hooks, this is the sound of hooks sticking into living things, just to hear them scream.

Whenever a group changes horses mid-race, folks usually scan the production credits for a scapegoat. But the credit (or blame?) cannot be leveled at producer Dave Fridmann this time. That’s because this noisy effort doesn’t sound anything at all like the more orchestral-oriented albums he’s previously produced for the likes of the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. So if you’re keeping score at home: It’s out of character for the band, and also one out of character for the producer.

When listening to this effort, words like “angular,” “disjointed” and “quirky” come immediately to mind. For instance, “Big Brat” features a melodic bass line and a bored-sounding vocal -- kind of like little less cynical Mark E. Smith (of the Fall). On it, vocalist Alex Greenwald sings, “You’re always up to no good/Stand back.” Greenwald has been given suitable music to express negativity here, that’s for sure. Similarly, “Bad Business” is garage rock, with a modified reggae beat and a shouted group vocal, “Jabberjaw” is fast, and just plain New Wave and “Making A Killing” contains a minimalist melody on the verses, and a group vocal on the choruses. Once again, Sam Farrar’s bass work is at the forefront of the mix.

If you loved the group’s last album, and especially its single “California” (which was used in “The O.C.” on Fox), then “After Hours” is the most melodic and least abrasive cut on the whole darn album. It sounds a little bit like one of those Jeff Lynne-produced Tom Petty tracks, due to its chugging rhythm and layered vocals. But for the most part, this is an album of music made especially for pulling your hair out. Whatever planet Phantom Planet calls its home these days, this place sure doesn’t have a whole lot of sunshine days during its calendar year. Granted, there’s a lot of movement on this new Phantom Planet. But it’s also an environment populated by whole lot of nearly unrecognizable alien life forms.

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