Imaginative, creative, diverse, interesting, quirky, and many, many more adjectives could be used to describe the debut record ‘Checkmate Savage’ from The Phantom Band. ‘The Wants’, their follow up, continues in the same vein and confirms The Phantom Band as one of the most interesting and imaginative bands in Scotland and possibly the UK at the moment.
I’m sure there will be many people left disappointed by this record, mainly because they will assess it solely against its predecessor. It’s the old problem of the difficult second record I guess, especially when your first was critically acclaimed in your own country. Those who loved the debut will undoubtedly have grumbles about this record not being anything particularly different or challenging or the usual “yadda, yadda, yadda.” Me personally, I loved the first record and I think this record is brilliant also. It’s refreshing and it hits the mark in a year where records that I have hoped and expected to be great have left me, for the most part, hugely disappointed. I completely believe that artists should evolve and grow. I think change is good. I think challenging your established sound and principles is a good thing. I think stepping out of your comfort zone as a musician is essential. However, for a band like the Phantom Band, who have only one record to their name prior to this and are only just establishing a following/fanbase, I see no need to dramatically change what they do at this stage. Often, listening to people too much is as dangerous as not listening at all and what you end up with is a band that loses all the things that made them so good in the first place. For me, The Phantom Band have got it spot on and this album is packed with more ideas and creativity within the first two tracks than most artists out there manage in a whole record. So I won’t grumble about this record because quite frankly it’s brilliant.
Tracks like ‘The Glamour’, ‘O’ and ‘The Walls’ are real stand outs for me, but the band are equally as good at quiet and interesting as they are at big ballsy, bluesy riffs that drive this dark affair onwards. This is perfectly highlighted on tracks like ‘Everybody Knows It’s True’ and ‘The None Of One.’ There is a definite folk sensibility to the Phantom Band. It’s in there underneath all the madness and it holds the record together beautifully. These tracks for me all stand alone with confidence but come together to create another quality piece of music from start to finish.
If I’m perfectly honest, I think ‘The Wants’ is a step forward from the debut album. It’s stronger in terms of songs and structure and I personally like it more as well. It connects more instantly whilst retaining the identity of the band created by their debut, something which I think shows a maturity in the band. One thing is for sure, it once again showcases The Phantom Band as one of Scotland’s most exciting new artists. A band we can truly be proud of and should shout about loudly. Hopefully ‘The Wants’ will bring them the full on success that ‘Checkmate Savage’ warrented. If this one goes unnoticed worldwide it will be a tragedy. Spread the word. Check out The Phantom Band here. Enjoy.