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The Phantom Band
The Wants Colin McKean , November 3rd, 2010 13:13

A little isolation can do wonders for the creative process - from the Bacchanalian excess that resulted in Exile on Main St. to the monastic solitude that led to For Emma, Forever Ago, hunkering down in the studio with only the distractions you bring with you can result in some great work. It can also lead to self-indulgence, madness and, I daresay, a great deal of masturbation.

Having released one of last year's more diverting debuts with Checkmate Savage The Phantom Band sequestered themselves in Chemikal Underground's Chem19 bunker to work on follow-up The Wants. Reportedly the band wrote the album more-or-less from scratch in the studio, emerging after six months with what their press release describes as the soundtrack to their own personal apocalypse.

Far from the paranoiac introversion such a gestation would suggest, The Wants is engaging and hugely enjoyable - panoramic rather than microcosmic - from beginning to end. The myriad reference points - from acid house and krautrock to psyche and country - remain, but the songs are more ambitious, timbres more varied, and sense of purpose more pointed than previously. At times The Wants just soars.

The rustling intro to opener 'A Glamour' breaks into a campfire anthem driven by a pounding drumbeat and weird looped squealing. 'O' sounds like the work of a Scottish Depeche Mode before the chugging 'Everybody Knows It's True' and eight-minute opus 'The None Of One'.

By the end of euphoric centrepiece 'Mr Natural' the band seem to have achieved levitation, returning to earth with the intimate sincerity of 'Come Away In The Dark' and loping syncopations of 'Walls'. The penultimate 'Into The Corn' sees the group at their most angular before 'Goodnight Arrow' starts to build towards the album's crescendo - providing its only remotely apocalyptic moment.

By rights The Wants should introduce The Phantom Band to a much wider audience. Whether it does remains to be seen, but these songs beg to be performed in larger venues than the band are currently used to. Precisely what went on in Chem19 may remain a mystery, but the outcome is an album of striking artistic virility.