our score: 4.5 out of 5.0
The lyrics are good, touches of poetry
here and there but not pretentious in the least. The musicianship
is perfectly fine, the production tight and clean. But it’s
not these things that make this record the 36-minute marvel it
is. It’s the vibe.
I know, that’s corny as hell, what’s
a vibe anyway, haha, someone’s been drinking again, etc.
But I mean it. Phantom Planet has tapped into something here that
is what rock music is all about, an energy, an attitude, I don’t
know what it is. I wasn’t expecting to like this as much
as I am, so it’s Sleeper of the Year so far.
it’s just that they’ve upgraded their ambition, and
their record collections. The music referenced here indicates
that Phantom Planet has been listening to all the right stuff:
among the 50 or so bands mentioned in the liner notes, the most
accurate comparisons are to the Cure, Radiohead (but really only
their first two records), Blur, the Flaming Lips, and the English
Beat (“Jabberjaw” is virtually a remake of “Mirror
in the Bathroom”); among the ones not mentioned, the Panorama-era
Cars and Ted Leo and Cheap Trick and the Walkmen.
So, yeah, they’re rockin’ here.
“After Hours” is all slippery momentum and wistfulness,
a miserablist’s anthem with a funky beat: “Watchin’
everybody leavin’ / I tell myself looks can be deceivin’”
is a damned good line, and singer/songwriter Alexander Greenwald’s
plaintiveness hits it right on. This voice turns up harder-edged
and snotty in the western-movie emo theme “You’re
Not Welcome Here” and the Numanesque ramble “By the
Bed.” But it’s awesomely disorienting to hear Greenwald
sounding completely different on the Two-Tone/metal bash of “Badd
Business” or the epic funk-wave closer “The Meantime,”
more authoritative, ballsier, more in control.
Fridmann produced this record, but it doesn’t sound like
any of his hyper-cinematic work for the Lips. In fact, you couldn’t
identify his work at all on propulsive smackdowns like “Big
Brat,” with its nagging sloppy guitar lines and random screaming
noises in the left speaker. He’s having as much fun as Phantom
Planet seems to be, maybe on a “strip-it-back” trip
or something; the way the drumbeat for “1st Things 1st”
intrudes into the ending of “Big Brat” is genius,
but the way he frames the guitars on the latter track is what’s
really genius; no one’s playing pretty, everyone’s
playing FUN, it’s contagious.
My fave thing here is a perfect example
of this: “Making a Killing” is either pro- or anti-greed,
can’t tell, doesn’t matter when you have fuzzy garage
guitar work like this and big fat songwriting hooks that you see
coming a mile away and still cannot avoid and lyrics like “Cut
your losses / Cut your ties / Start a new life / (These things
they can) Tie you up / Wear you down / Wear you in and wear you
It’s just good music, with good words,
played well. What the hell else do you want out of a CD?
The Happy Ending
2. Badd Business
3. Big Brat
4. 1st Things 1st
5. Making A Killing
6. You're Not Welcome Here
7. By The Bed
10. After Hours
11. The Meantime