If the music world was a just domain, the stunningly imaginative, ever-surprising ‘The Wants’ would be the most talked about release to pop out on October 18. But originality, of course, is very much a liability. A wacky back story and painstakingly worked-on image will always trump an abundance of ideas when it comes to securing media attention. As such, the second album from The Phantom Band’s doomed to be overshadowed by the travelling preacher father and lightly Southern-spiced, generic arena rock of Kings of Leon when mid-October rolls around.
Unless we the record-buying public correct this particular wrong. As we most certainly should – as impressive as the Glasgow six-piece’s 2009 debut ‘Checkmate Savage’ was, this second outing often makes it sound like a mere practice run.
‘The Wants’ hones the band’s patented robotic Kraut-Folk template to perfection. Practically dripping with sleep deprived, hallucinatory unease, the results – check out the seamless blend of heartachy pagan-folk balladry and motorik momentum of ‘The None of One’ – frequently come across like The Wicker Man soundtracked by obscure nuggets of heady psychedelia that slipped out without much fanfare on a tiny German label in the early 70’s, or Neu! drawing inspiration from the deepest, darkest of woodlands as opposed to an endless stretches of autobahn.
Usually, bands this audibly enthralled by esoteric sounds make do with moulding their music into eccentric shapes. The Phantom Band isn’t in this game for chin-strokery alone: their uncompromising experimentation’s married to tunes you can easily imagine a fieldful of hammered festival-goers hollering along to. ‘A Glamour’, for example, which constructs a murky groove from a West African percussion instrument and an overload of whoops and hisses from not easily identifiable sources, has the good sense to couple its distorted stomp – essentially glam rock with its sparkling platform boots splattered with mud and blood - into a chorus you’d land a chopper on. ‘O’ and ‘Into The Corn’ are even more impressive variations on the same theme, the latter’s tale of spooky goings-on in the countryside gradually building into a formidable juggernaut of accordion-fuelled rural disco, as unstoppable as an assailant that keeps on coming regardless of countless direct hits. Only a lot more welcome, of course.
The lovelorn campfire croon-along ‘Come Away In The Dark’ prove The Phantom Band can be just as compelling when their trademark nameless dread’s exchanged for a spot of heartfelt beauty.