I’ll cut right to the point: I like Phantom Planet, and I like this eponymous new record. Here’s why:
1. It begins like an album’s supposed to begin, with a balls-out, noisy explosion that could singe off your eyebrows with its firepower. The song that follows, “The Happy Ending”, is desperate and intense, blatting and screeching all over the place. From such a start, you either have to give up completely or keep on trucking, and Phantom Planet thankfully do the latter.
2. This is a band not afraid of production. The cymbals crash tinnily, guitar spit-shine and bass lines glitter like chrome. The vocals are piped in so close, you can almost feel the heat of singer Alex Greenwald’s breath. Listening to this band makes you feel like you are in the band, pulsing through their thoughts and central to the creation of their sound.
3. Phantom Planet are one of the few bands that makes fun music and actually sounds as if making their music is fun. Perhaps this is because their songs pop like water in hot oil. “Badd Business” is a muscle spasm set to music, a song that sounds like its only possible to play with complete abandon of one’s motor skills. Either that, or complete resignation to the jubilant mania.
4. “Big Brat”. If you don’t fall in love with this song upon the first listen, I declare you inhuman, or dead, or possible both.
5. Phantom Planet don’t take themselves seriously. They’ll overlay a trigger-happy guitar pounce with blocks of vocals that sounds as if the football team took up choir. Somewhere in the background, there’ll be what sounds like a saxophone, or a noise that seems to be someone playing Atari. Alex Greenwald sings with a sneer, spitting out rhymes that sound ridiculous and ridiculously sexy at the same time.
6. Jason Schwartzmann. Even though he left the band, his spirit still looms.
7. They recognize that fast songs are their strengths, so they don’t muck up the record with a lot of slow songs to prove how “deep” or “serious” or “feeling” they can be. Instead, “By the Bed”, their “emo” “love ballad,” maintains an off kilter irony—noisy, snarly, overly dramatic, confused. And there’s a moment in the song, which is otherwise moderate, where the drums break into an unbelievably rapid pace—a dexterous as well as insane move.
8. When everybody is trying to sound like Detroit, New York, or some Atlanta-Raleigh-Memphis hybrid, Phantom Planet are content to sound like their hometown of Los Angeles. This means flashy, sun-kissed instrumentation and sound quality, gold-plated vocals, silicone lyrics. This album is like expert plastic surgery—you know some of it may be artificial, but damn, ain’t it good?
9. They can have an amazing dynamic range—loud, louder, and fucking-ouch
10. Even though they sometimes sound like the Strokes, they’re about a billion times less annoying.
// Notes from the Road
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