Anyone who’s familiar with The Phantom Band knows that they’re not averse to a bit of experimentation. The Glasgow-based six-piece have been creating idiosyncratic indie rock with pop hooks for years, but Fears Trending sees them at their most darkly experimental.
Following hot on the heels of last year’s superb Strange Friend, Fears Trending was recorded in the same sessions and its title is an anagram of the former. Rather than being an extension though, Fears Trending feels like a different beast. Where Strange Friend was largely upbeat and bouncing with positivity, the atmosphere here is darker and moodier, evoking a twilit landscape haunted by isolation. As guitarist Duncan Marquiss notes, “Maybe it’s the evil twin of Strange Friend.”
Tender Castle sets the tone with shadowy electro-pop, propelled along into the unknown by urgent sequencers and clattering drums. Denise Hopper moves through the badlands on a military beat set against a backdrop of ominously blaring synths and spaghetti western guitar, colliding together in the extended jam outro with Neil Youngish guitar abuse rumbling like thunder in the distance. Meanwhile, The Kingfisher has the vibe of a deranged circus, with carny organs and slouching bass lurking around. Meanwhile, Rick Anthony plays the ringleader, commanding attention with his dramatic croon and later his voice transmits tinnily like a radio broadcast from a long gone music hall, before the sound of the tide washes it all away. The circus has left town.
Anthony’s vocals especially seem to suit this crepuscular world. On the moody, guitar-driven Dark Tape he seems to channel Ian McCulloch as ghostly backing vocals swell behind him. Elsewhere, as album closer Olden Golden grows from acoustic dustbowl ballad to space-age voyage, his honeyed baritone echoes Scott Walker as it floats effortlessly through the void.
While the songs here stand well on their own, they weave together so cohesively that the album is best taken as a whole. So if you’re ready to take a trip through The Phantom Band’s personal twilight zone, give Fears Trending a spin.
Review by: James MacKinnon
Out Now via Chemikal
Order via Amazon