With some bands, it’s easy to rattle off 1000 words, anchored by the many and mostly misused terms for the word ‘greatness’. Whether they’re any good or not, who knows because sometimes reviews don’t give much away other than a simple sentiment minus an explanation (hence the disturbing NME review of Kassidy’s debut album). It’s writing that can’t go anywhere but it has to go somewhere. It just can’t be adapted to some music so easily.
And this is the problem with experiencing The Phantom Band live and why disliking a band live can be so much easier to write about. We know why we like this band, we just can’t explain it in a sentence when faced with it. Everything, well mostly everything, is a struggle to reach a solid outcome, or, maybe it’s just a shitload of hyperbole. And this is what happens when they open with ‘The Howling’.
The Phantom Band take out any potentially unnecessary air. Are they still art-rock? Were they ever? Is it Beefheart jamming with Neu or is it now more like Deus covering La Dusseldorf? See! Make enough references and it might make sense because, one and all, that’s why the Phantoms are a great band. Live though, damn, even more so.
They throw up lyrical negatives in the most positive light on ‘Everybody Knows It’s True’, conjuring up sadness to a slow beat, showing a talent that goes hand in hand with a serious love of words. They are, what you might like to call, for verification, a tight-as-fuck unit. You don’t get to be a band made up of semi-vague of talents with a song like ‘The None Of One’. “She bared her teeth to the world, screamed her wildest words, and was gone.” It’s almost the blues.
For a bunch of musicians that are still notoriously hard to pin down, even writing a review seems like a fantastic waste of time when I could be out doing better things… like listening to The Phantom Band. ‘Left Hand Wave’, however, remains oddly and pleasingly disturbing. Drones, a cold guitar, and a moody shape-shifting deep bassline. Yes, there’s elements of anti-folk, krautrock, even Jaki Liebezeit’s drumming, but then again, who doesn’t like Jaki? Ending with ‘Crocodile’, and what with it being the last date of the tour, finishing on an instrumental, oh the fantastic nerve. And that’s why they’re a band to behold. A true rarity.
I also don’t think I’ve ever seen Rick ever not wear a hat. True story.