The Borderline isn’t the right venue. It feels too small for a band who produced an album as good as Checkmate Savage. It is also an example of a venue that has a pillar in front of the stage. That kind of bad planning really bugs me. But this isn’t a review of the stage area; this is a review of one of the most exciting British bands of the year.
The Phantom Band are pretty hard to pigeonhole. They don’t have a sound that is really like anyone else. There is some krautrock in there, a bit of the Super Furry Animals pop psychedelia and some Beta Band as well. In their rockier moments they are the band that Kasabian think they are, but they are the real deal.
Live, they are surprisingly loose. The drums, extremely tight on record, are just that bit out of time. The playing just the wrong side of tight throughout. It doesn’t matter too much as the strength of the songs and an extremely partisan audience carry them through. And the songs do sound great, even in their looser incarnations.
‘The Howling’ is an epic, and ‘Folk Song Oblivion’ is a fabulous piece of doom laden psych rock. The highpoint of the set was arguably the eight minutes plus of ‘The Island’, their quietest number and the best received from the audience. If we hadn’t already been standing it would have received a standing ovation.
Despite the looseness of the playing it was a good performance. The band exchanging guitars for strange pagan looking percussion when needed and some pretty odd silver outfits on show. The band seemed to enjoy the performance and apart from one shy guitarist (looking for the world like he wished he was in Radiohead) played to the audience. In vocalist Rick Anthony they have a true original, and someone not scared to sing in their real voice, refreshing in a musical form where an American accent is so often adopted.
On the evidence of the night The Phantom Band may be destined to be a minority concern. If enough people got to hear their superb album that might just change. If you haven’t got it I urge you to pick it up now. Hopefully then they can play the venues that they deserve.
By Dorian Rogers, Nov 2009