Phantom Planet – The Guest (Epic/Daylight)

At times Phantom Planet sound so much like Travis that it’s unreal. One gets the idea that they like sounding like Travis — all unsure of themselves and sensitive. The worst part is that the further they veer from Travis’s territory, the better they sound. “Always on my Mind” (not the Willie Nelson/Elvis song) is the best song here and it smacks of 60s pop in its drumbeat and harmony vocals. One track later “Lonely Day” sounds like Travis in its acoustic-led sadness but shifts in the big chorus to sound in snatches like Oasis. Or at least like something they’d do. “Turn Smile Shift Repeat” sounds exactly like Travis doing Radiohead. While Travis have done a fair job on their last two records of balancing syrupy ballads and nice melodies, Phantom Planet is nowhere near old enough to adopt this mode of quiet, creeping cynicism. When your singer and drummer are Hollywood stars, the jaded lyrics of businessmen and “dollar signs” ring a bit hollow. Still, it’s not bad. “Nobody’s Fault” sounds so much like Elvis Costello that I had to pull out the liner notes to verify it wasn’t an old Costello song. Phantom Planet’s members may be young but they’ve made a fine record. They may mock some of their influences to a degree but when they find their own voice, they excel. “The Guest,” included on the special edition companion CD, is the best song here. Its angst and mood are totally the band’s own. Do more like that one.