The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage (5 stars)

The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage

(Chemikal Underground)


For years the Chemikal triumvirate of The Delgados, Arab Strap and Mogwai dominated Scottish indie, but more recently the label has struggled to find a seminal band to soundtrack the future. On this evidence, they’ve found them. The Phantom Band are a very weird and very wonderful Glasgow-based six-piece and this debut is a work of skewed genius, a leftfield car-crash of indie, folk, pop, blues, post-rock and some stuff that’s frankly uncategorisable, all shot through with a punk ethic but an unashamedly melodic pop aesthetic.

The songs here often sound more dug out of the earth than created in a rehearsal room, so organically visceral is the vibe in places. The genre rulebook has been burned as well, so we get the scary krautrock disco of ‘Left Hand Wave’ sitting next to the jaw-dropping gospel-flecked folk of ‘Island’ and the sludgy Beefheart rattle of ‘Burial Sounds’ happily preceding the wide open pop spaces of ‘Folk Song Oblivion’.

This is a debut of serious intent with art.rock sensibilities, but that’s not to say it isn’t also a hell of a lot of fun, and the ghosts of the Beta Band and Super Furries appear at times. The Phantom Band like to get into a groove and work it to a climax, just witness the humungous rolling riff of ‘Halfhound’ or the tense, frenetic eight-minute instrumental ‘Crocodile’, the soundtrack to the best Scottish indie film never made.

Experimental and intelligent but also guttural, smile-inducing and ass-shaking, this is a pretty remarkable calling card.

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