The Phantom Band: Checkmate Savage

~ Monday, 7 September 2009
Kinetic. Eclectic. Collective. Kraught rock. Electro. Visual art rock. Folk. Experimental. Nick Cave. Velvet Underground. Stereolab. Can. Sons and Daughters. Joy Division. The Beta Band. Lou Barlow’s Folk Implosion. Yo La Tengo. From the brilliant opener The Howling you feel Glasgow based sextet The Phantom Band must get sick of people having to find a pigeonhole to squeeze them into but by the end of this wonderful album you realise that’s the point. They’re messing with our heads.

What’s most tangible on Checkmate Savage, the band’s Chemikal Underground release is the tension. Great bands like The Ramones and The Kinks thrived on tension. Difficulties must arise when all 6 have a strong opinion, equally they’re sussed enough to realise the friction is where the magic lies. The work of former Delgado, Paul Savage deserves credit here as he’s reined in the disparate, fragmented elements and helped make a coherent album.

Underwriting this album is a lyrical darkness similar in style to Martin Amis at his funny and sarcastic best. In Folk Song Oblivion the clarion call ‘I can’t see for the mountain silhouettes’ before we skip off into a delicious unashamed cheesy keyboard hook. Left Hand Wave and instrumental Crocodile are worthy of mentions but the more you listen the more your favourites rotate.

If Bill Forsyth was making a new movie in Glasgow’s West End about a social worker who dreams of being a cartoonist who has left the Hebrides and keeps seeing the ghost of his former love through the wet windows of the Oxfam Record shop on Byres Road hoping she’ll walk back into his life. Films about nothing, then the epic Islands would ignite that scene. In fact let’s call Bill, all of Checkmate Savage could be the soundtrack.

[][][][] (4/5)

Review by Charlie Brown