The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage

This record just won the 2009 BAMS award voted for by bloggers, music writers and presenters in Scotland.  I put the Phantom Band on at Trampoline in the 2nd month of shows.  They played shows in both Glasgow and Edinburgh for us and were mighty impressive.  I was not at all surprised when they got snapped up by Chemikal Underground.  I always thought they had a really good chance.  There was something brilliant about them, and I mean stand out brilliant, when they played those shows back in 2007.  And yet, for some unknown reason – I’m not even sure why if I’m honest – I never got around to buying their record until my fellow BAMS voted it the best record of 2009, by quite some distance I might add too.  Which, not only means it was the best record of 2009 but also the best record by a Scottish band in 2009.

Listening to it over the past week or so it it’s instantly infectious. ‘Howling’ starts with a fabulous bass line and drum beat and sets the tone for what is a pretty cracking debut album if you ask me. ‘Folk Song Oblivion’ is another cracker but it’s ‘Throwing Bones’ that I still remember from the Trampoline shows.  Brilliant.  I completely understand where all the votes for this record came from and excatly why.  They are like nothing else in Scotland, that I can think of anyways.  There is no attempt to be mainstream, in fact, I’d argue that much of this is as far from mainstream as it could get and yet they still have this real instant catchyness and poppiness to their music.

I noted over the past few days there’s been a little east coast/west coast tention brewing again and being discussed over on songbytoad.  It’s a shame that there is still this silly rivalry between the 2 cities, but quite amusing and ironic that the band who have produced what critics in Scotland think is the best record of 2009 are from Glasgow but sound like they are from Edinburgh!  I love this record.  Pure and simple.  I think it’s going to be a big year for this band and if they can maintain such high standards and produce a follow up anywhere near as good then the future definitely is bright.  I’m sorry this is such a late appraisal of the record, but it’s never too late to agree about how good something is.  You can check out the band here.  Enjoy.

TSP Grade = A

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5 thoughts on “The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage

  1. I’m in agreement about The Phantom Band – they rocked (and indeed sum up) my 2009 with an all-encapsulating soundtrack, and I’m anticipating more greatness in 2010.

    The thing you say about them sounding from Edinburgh… I’m not sure I agree entirely, but it might be worth noting that this is a band billed as being from Glasgow, but one that comprises (albeit with its lineup shrouded in Scotch mystery and misinformation) without any single member actually hailing from Glasgow – From what I can gather they are mostly from the North East (rural Aberdeenshire and Dundee), with a couple of guys from Hamilton. So they are a band who meet in Glasgow – they don’t sound like a ‘Glasgow band’ but if you ask me, they don’t sound like an anywhere band. I’d say that being pan-Scottish is a good reason why these lads don’t seem to get involved in the whole Glasgow/Edinburgh thing – they don’t rabbit on about Glasgowness or attach themselves to any kind of cool scene which might alienate those musicians and followers from the Capital.

    However, perhaps because I live in Glasgow and see it first hand, I’d like to point out that I think the only 1 thing fueling such alienation (which sparks the cringe-worthy east-west debates to which you refer) is envy – musicians in Glasgow don’t (and never have) set out to make an exclusive set, or to become cooler than Scottish music, or any of the rubbish I read about in blogs. Notice these debates are ALWAYS started by people in Edinburgh. Glasgow has more venues (possible because it has a more noise-tolerant and less tourist orientated population) so it has more things going on. It’s a much bigger city, with a population of a couple of hundred thousand more than Edinburgh has. It gets the attention of National and International press because there is so much going on and thus more international bands have come from there. Glaswegians aren’t arrogant, they just don’t care about those elsewhere because they have no need to. People in Edinburgh who start these pointless debates should just get over these basic facts, move on and make some good music, open some good venues etc… or move to the bigger city instead of moaning about it!

    Back on subject, brilliant bands like The Phantom Band show that bands and listeners alike, bloggers and promoters etc… don’t give a shit where you are from.

  2. William, thanks for you comments and stopping by.

    I for one certainly don’t give a shit where you are from so long as you’re good and I enjoy your music. But your comment that Edinburgh folk should make some good music is a little strange and irks me a little given that 2 of the best records of the last 2 years in Scotland have been by Edinburgh acts. Great music is being produced all across Scotland in my opinion and that’s the best position for us to be in.

    As for your comments on venues. I completely agree. Just tonight, sitting in 13th Note, I was saying I wish Edinburgh had more places like that and Stereo. However, there are great venues in Edinburgh and great bands too.

    Plus, I think the current debate is more to do with some Glaswegain girl trying to be a know it all but knowing nothing and coming across like a fanny. Certainly not a “who produces better music” debate.

  3. You could also say that Frightened Rabbit are not a Glasgow band as they are from the Borders. But that doesn’t stop Glasgow claiming them as their own. I think there’s loads of great music all across Scotland and the Edinburgh v Glasgow debate is irrelevant. Both cities have lots of positives and negatives but the music scene in Scotland is about more than those 2 cities.

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