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Not “the guy from Rushmore’s” band anymore

Brian Foy | Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Question: What do you do after your song “California” appears as the theme to the television show The OC, your drummer and founding member, Jason Schwartzman, leaves to pursue his acting career and your popularity is at an all-time high? Answer: If you are Phantom Planet, you release an unanticipated album with a unique sound different from what everyone is expecting.Phantom Planet’s first move was to acquire the services of Dave Fridmann to mix and produce the record. Fridmann was the man behind Weezer’s raw, distorted sound on their cult classic, Pinkerton, and would be sure to expand the Phantom Planet sound. The next step for the band was to replace their departing drummer with veteran Jeff Conrad. Conrad would be asked to provide the band with new energy, but not change the dynamic that has made Phantom Planet so successful.Phantom Planet’s self titled album is their third major label release. Phantom Planet is a very appropriate title for the new album because the band seems to have reinvented its sound throughout the album. The Phantom Planet boys keep their catchy melodies and harmonizing, but add a depth and dirty sound not seen on their previous efforts.”The Happy Ending” proves that Phantom Planet will be very different from the previously released Guest. The track begins with a pounding drum beat and feedback before the other guitars and bass kick in and the lyrics begin. The song manages to take the classic Phantom Planet sound in a new and more mature direction. The lyrics continue to be honest and catchy as we hear “I’m begging and pleading / For another beating / I’m ready and waiting / For the Happy Ending.” Additionally, the song mixes clean and dirty sounds by using layered guitars that set the tone for the rest of the album.A couple of tracks later the first single, “Big Brat,” clearly displays the hybrid of new and old Phantom Planet sound. The song starts with a driving guitar riff that is met with a complementary guitar that creates the layered effect Phantom Planet calls its bread and butter. Furthermore, at several points throughout the song we hear the background vocals and harmonizing melodies that have not only made Phantom Planet popular, but successful as well.”By the Bed” may not only be the finest track on the new album, but also one of the best Phantom Planet has ever recorded. The song begins with a lone guitar and the lyrics: “Her eyes were closed / When I caught her in bed / She seemed much happier then.” In the beginning, it appears to be a simple song, but as it progress we see the depth and maturity that Phantom Planet has found. The song lacks the classically defined chorus in favor of a building sound and extended bridge. The emotion is present in the urgency of the lyrics: “There is nothing else / That you can do / You can’t understand / What I go through.” The way these lyrics are delivered and the elevating volume of the guitars and faster pace of the drums also contribute to the song’s emotive quality. More than any song on the album, “By the Bed” proves how far Phantom Planet has come and what the future holds.Phantom Planet’s self-titled third album is everything that the current music trend is lacking. It breaks from the cookie cutter sound in favor of a raw and at times experimental sound. The album is full of emotion and harmony from the very beginning which will delight the fans of Phantom Planet’s early work. The band takes its multiple guitar sound to the next level because they have thrown out the conventional recording rule book. The new Phantom Planet takes chances by using a dirty and distorted sound that is unlike anything in rotation at the local radio station, but will attract new fans.

Contact Brian Foy at bfoy@nd.edu