New Blood 7, The Phantom Band – by Vic Galloway

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Contrary to the received opinion there’s been a lot of great music this year. the death of creativity has been grossly exaggerated. BBC Radio One’s Vic Galloway certainly thinks so. His recent top 75 on his show was a glowing testament to all the great stuff being made. So naturally we asked him to tell us about it and he sent back this great blog on The Phantom Band.

The Phantom Band Vic Galloway ”“ BBC Broadcaster, Journalist, Musician and Music Fan.


The Phantom Band ”“ The Wants ”“ My LP of 2010

As a music nerd, the month of December can be a frustratingly retrospective time as we all slip and slide in the never-ending slew of ”˜best of the year’ listings. It is comforting to look back in a strange way, and gives some kind of perspective on the previous 12 months, but I’m sure lots of great music gets completely ignored in the critical scrum to compile the ultimate end of year poll.

I add to it of course, and throw in my tuppence worth where I can, to whoever may be interested. This time I made a list of my Top 75 albums of 2010 as I truly couldn’t cut down the number of records I liked, played on the radio and genuinely enthused about any further. Why not have a look  and take a chance on a few you may not be familiar with? Some are smaller Scottish acts and some are world-famous, stadium-slaying rock stars who you’ll already know. Some are neither, but all are good.

I did this list in no particular order with 74 albums in random order. However, I am steadfast and sure of the Number 1 longplayer. The band is based in Glasgow, but comprise of a disparate bunch of psychedelic scallywags from all corners of Scotland. They call themselves The Phantom Band, they signed to Chemikal Underground Records a few years ago and ”˜The Wants’ is their second magnum-opus.

Although 2010 has been another phenomenal year for visionary and forward-thinking music across all existing genres and even newer sonic pastures, this wins album of the year hands down for me. What’s both hugely satisfying, and slightly embarrassing for me, is that I gave their first album ”˜Checkmate Savage’ the gong for Album of the year 2009. I don’t want them to think I’m kissing their sorry asses after all! It’s just unavoidable.

I, like most music lovers with inquisitive minds, am always searching for something genuinely affecting and new. I don’t want a plagiaristic reworking of another band’s music; I want to hear someone’s own personality and character. I know it’s difficult to be outright original and unique, but no-one said being a 21st century artist was going to be easy. I want to hear someone express themselves as themselves and not a mere shadow of their favourite Joy Division or Velvet Underground albums”¦ or whoever generic tastemakers are deeming is the flavour of the month.

When everything past, present and future is available at the touch of a button and the click of a mouse, it’s more and more important that artists push forward and at least attempt to be as innovative as possible. Especially in an age of such rampant consumer-led, star-making by the likes of the X Factor, that is so obviously tied up in big business, major record labels, mass-media manipulation and a wanton disrespect for real art and self-expression. Cowell and his cohorts are here to lower the standards and make as much quick cash as possible, so it’s up to the true artists to stand their ground and do something exceptional.

The Phantom Band are artists, both musically and visually (at least two of them are painters and film-makers), and are definitely on some sort of quest to create their own body of work. This seems to pay no mind to mainstream or underground trends but bucks them all and forges its own path.

They don’t grab headlines, create media chatter or even gain vast amounts of radio play, but have somehow had 4 and 5 star reviews across the board, which both pleases and amazes me. It seems people are listening after all. Let’s hope this little blurb of over-excited hyperbole on my part adds to that and convinces you to rush out to buy a copy of this new album on CD or vinyl”¦ or at least click your mouse 2 or 3 times and download the damn thing!

”˜The Wants’ takes off from where ”˜Checkmate Savage’ laid the groundwork, with a stunning collection of ideas and reference points across 10 songs that unbelievably eclipse even those on the first album. They manage to combine folk, psychedelia, krautrock, indie, doo-wop and even prog into their ramshackle whole, without sounding like anyone else one bit. Take the tribal percussion and motorik beats of Can and Neu!; the brutal honesty of Scottish indie legends Arab Strap; the gallows humour of Nick Cave or Tom Waits; the wayward, progressive slant of French lunatics Magma; the playful sonic-collage of The Beta Band; and even a nice collection of analogue synth sounds that Kraftwerk would approve of”¦ Well, you’re starting to get close but you’re still not there.

This is a deep record that bears up to repeated listening with intriguing, esoteric lyrics and a heartfelt vocal performance throughout from frontman Rick ”˜Redbeard’ Anthony. Produced by first album’s namesake Paul Savage in the ever-consistent Chem 19 studios, it’s meticulously played, recorded and arranged. Both rhythmically and melodically, the record strives for the new, the weird and the unknown. It’s not flawless, like many pop albums can be, but it has more ideas in 1 song then most bands have in an entire career.

You’ll probably see a lot of the similar names on these ”˜end of year’ lists, but I urge you to take a step into the shadowy world of The Phantom Band for a genuinely new musical experience ”“ bleak, unsettling and ominous yet joyous, uplifting and full of dark passion. Be prepared to have you mind blown.

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  1. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. You’ve made my fucking year. Stunning band. It does worry me a bit though – how many other greats are out there that, for me, lie undiscovered.

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