Saturday, March 14, 2009


The Phantom Band wish to appear enigmatic and shadowy. Given their name and what I had read about them (including the bit about performing with sacks over their heads) I was expecting a performance to match. And initially lead singer Rick Princeton delivers as he stands behind the mic appearing like a bearded hellfire-and-damnation preacher, intoning strange incantations with arms outstretched. But then between songs he smiles and mumbles 'thanks' and you realise he's just an ordinary Scottish musician. But playing extraordinary music.

Opening song 'Burial Sounds' is a good introduction to the world of The Phantom Band - the best showcase of their potent mix of motorik rhythms and voodoo-swamp-blues-rock with a touch of psychedelic jamming. Reviews for Checkmate Savage draw the strangest and broadest list of band comparisons (Beta Band meet British Sea Power? TV On The Radio and Violent Femmes?? Nick Cave meets Neu?). Most should just be ignored and the music listened to.

On record it is confident distillation of all these influences or elements. And live it's pretty much the same - and still utterly compelling - played faithfully by the six piece band (so no studio-based creation then) They may be a surprisingly ordinary looking band tonight (except the keyboard player: either an extra from 'Paris, Texas' or the lost member of Grandaddy) but still with presence and a sense of originality. But it's the music wins you over - some songs feature three guitarists, instrumental 'Crocodile' builds and builds to a finale including two melodeons, rhythms are beaten out on a series of found (or unrecognisable) instruments including what looks like jagged metal shelving brackets. If it all sounds overkill, trust me it works and doesn't convey the subtlety they can bring. My appreciation of the subtlety may at times have been impaired by Guinness but overall this was a great performance and any disappointment at their ordinariness soon dispelled by the songs.

Set list translation: 'Dancehall' is 'Burial Sounds'; 'Mountain' is 'Folk Song Oblivion'; and 'Bee Flight' (or is that 'Beef Light'?) is 'Halfhound'.

Tonight was an Akoustik Anarkhy evening; support was from Easter and Three Trapped Tigers. Flyers for Easter's debut EP referenced Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine but they were not as noisy as this suggests - closer to the melodic, meandering end of the Sonic Youth spectrum. Definitely had some moments but didn't keep my attention throughout - get their EP here. Three Trapped Tigers on the other hand were very noisy. They received some enthusiastic reactions but their instrumental avant-noise just passed me by.

The Phantom Band
Checkmate Savage [BUY]


Anonymous said...

"potent mix of motorik rhythms and voodoo-swamp-blues-rock with a touch of psychedelic jamming" - can you explain that to me in words that I can understand please?!

Not sure I agree with you about how great they were. Although it was enjoyable enough (especially as it was free!), I think the Guinness may have impaired your critical faculties somewhat. I would give it about 6 out of 10.

Oh, and what the fuck is it with people that they think that they can ruin the experience for everyone else just so they can talk shite about shite fucking constantly while a band is playing. Why don't these people just fuck off and die?

High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation said...

Bad day at the office Mr P?

I popped in to compliment The Archivist on his lovely writing. I didn't understand more than half of it, but it was very enjoyable to read.