Phantom Planet, s/t

[This review originally appeared in All The Rage.]

Phantom Planet
Phantom Planet
(Epic Records)

Phantom Planet’s last album, The Guest, was a well-made but unremarkable recording. Tuneful yet timid, it was like the good-looking guy with no personality. With two Hollywood actors in the group (including Rushmore’s Jason Schwartzman), the band seemed a charming sideline. All that has changed with their new self-titled release.

From the explosion of drums that introduces “The Happy Ending,” it’s clear that PP shook themselves out of the mid-tempo rut they were in. Phantom Planet is noisy and aggressive. The New Wave influences are still present but this time around, the band attacks the bubbling basslines and syncopated guitars.

The haunting You’re Not Welcome Here makes do with a one-note bass line while trebly guitars shriek over top. 1st Things 1st is an anthem compacted into a tight guitar pop song. “Badd Business” lays claim to the busy bass playing of the Attractions’ Bruce Thomas. After Hours so successfully transforms its maudlin mood into palpable joy that its perfectly appropriate ending is unwelcome. Throughout, the guitars are incredibly loud yet not overdriven. The drums crash more than in most modern recordings. And it’s no exaggeration to say that Sam Farrar’s bass playing makes him the hero of the record.

At times, singer Alex Greenwald still doesn’t sound completely grown up. And at times, they seem to imitate rather than interpret their influences. But 99% of the time, the band’s manic, desperate energy (fueld by a desire to prove themselves?) overcomes all criticism.

As surprising as it is enjoyable – as noisy as its predecessor was subdued – Phantom Planet has proven the band to be an engaging young group with a unique style and an energy lacking in much of major label rock ‘n’ roll.