There’s something fishy about Phantom Planet. It’s not the fact that this is the pop band famous for “California” (theme of TV’s “The O.C.”), nor that Jason Schwartzman (of the film Rushmore) played drums for them—it’s that, after all this, they holed up in a cabin in the woods with Grammy-winning producer Dave Fridmann and recorded the eponymous Phantom Planet, a feedback-infused rock album. Suddenly, Phantom Planet has turned dark and dirty with the catchiness of The Strokes and the ease of a band that’s been reverberating in garage rock for years. Weird. But the fact remains that the album is accomplished and interesting. And despite their history, Phantom Planet’s new direction feels fairly genuine. High points include the ska-impacted “Badd Business” spotlighting new drummer Jeff Conrad’s command of tempo, and “1st Things 1st,” which exhibits Alex Greenwald’s suggestive (if affected) vocals.
The smattering of angular guitar and discordant strumming supports a supposition that Gang of Four may be one of Phantom Planet’s influences. But here fishiness seeps in again. The album is tight, but the lyrics lack Gang of Four’s intelligent edginess. Without smart lyrics to match the instrumentation, Phantom Planet is still just spinning. (Erika Fredrickson)
Phantom Planet opens for Sting at the Adams Center Thursday, April 7. The show starts at 7:30 PM, and tickets start at $34.25.The Oxes
Rarely does a studio recording hold a candle to a band best known for igniting live crowds. The Oxes hail from Baltimore and carry a reputation for delivering instrumental rock performances that make fans swoon and cynics convert. Guitarists Nettarino Fowler and Marco Mirror churn out a dizzying array of technical riffs on handmade wireless guitars, often performing high atop black wooden boxes (or, sometimes, wandering the room with the freedom of the equipment). On drums, Han Sum pounds as a one-man rhythm section (no bass necessary with these guys) and, on rare occasions, members of the band perform naked on all fours—Mirror pulled the stunt a few weeks ago at the South by Southwest Festival. (You’ve accomplished something when you manage to stand out at SXSW.)
No doubt the combination of showmanship and musicianship makes the Oxes best experienced live, but their eight-song 2002 release, Oxxxes, isn’t a bad fix for long stretches of separation anxiety (it’s been a few years since they’ve come through Missoula). Tracks like “Boss Kitty,” “Kaz Hayashi” and “Bees won” deliver the necessary high-energy rock goods while “chyna, chyna, chyna” and “Russia is HERE” sidetrack to more standard—at times even pop—measures. Oxxxes is unabashed fun, but the aura of their live show is what makes it so. (i>Skylar Browning)
The Oxes play the Red Light Green Room Friday, April 1. Doors open at 10:30 PM, and tickets cost $7. The Turnout
Tinted Amber Records
Oh, the melodrama! With songs like “I Died in Your Photograph” and “With Every Kiss a Lover Falls,” The Turnout’s eponymous EP overflows with enough minor chordage and self-reflexive treacle to depress a wildebeest. Or kill one. This six-pack of emo tracks features the vocals of bass player Erik Fidel, whose amazing range is eclipsed only by his tonal lucidity. He actually does some jaw-dropping trills reminiscent of The Cranberries, and the backup vocals are, if not celestial, quite pretty.
Despite the illumined melodies, the album diverges little from song to song. Meaning, if you love one song, you’re in luck. The most (and perhaps only) variation arrives with “Colors Deceive Pale Hearts,” an upbeat MTV-ready set-piece wherein Fidel reveals his cookie-cutter angst. Though not his forte, the tune at least shows some edginess. If only it seemed more sincere…
The album feels green, and it is, but the Sacramento-based band is due to sign with Missoula’s Nexstep Records in April, which might help them fulfill the enormous potential they obviously possess. The album is polished, and The Turnout is clearly technically capable. If only the lyrical gems weren’t drowned out by waves of histrionics. (Erika Fredrickson)
The Turnout was scheduled to play Missoula Saturday, April 2, but the concert was cancelled at the last minute. Expect a rescheduled summer show. The Forty-Fives
High Life High Volume Yep Roc Records
If High Life High Volume by The Forty-Fives was a musical play, the insubordinate hero would begin the scene by tearing down the curtains and throwing a blues-induced rock party. Later, after he falls for the girl and woos her with lonely rock ballads complete with saxophone and haunting organ, he’d rediscover his badass, rock ’n’ roll self and blaze through the final act in a fever of soulful riffs. Or something like that.
The point is, this album’s animation springs from its progression—from the grittiness of “Bad Reputation” down the forlorn highway of “Too Many Miles” and smack dab into the sass of “C’mon Now Love Me.” The album (produced by Motor City legend Jim Diamond) vibrates with the salty vocals of Bryan G. Malone and the spirited keyboard of Trey Tidwell. Other highlights include The Dirtbombs’ Mick Collins on harmonica on “Go Ahead and Shout” and the honky tonk of “Bicycle Thief”—a surprising fit for The Forty-Fives.
Whatever the album’s storyline, the arc of High Life High Volume is prominent despite its tendency to stick to the basics of ’60s garage rock. The Forty-Fives aren’t smashing any standards, but they’re revisiting worthwhile modes. (Erika Fredrickson)
The Forty-Fives are scheduled to play somewhere in Missoula on Sunday, April 3, with Ruby Doe. At press time, the location was undetermined. Please call 327-5982 for more information.