The Phantom Band

The Phantom Band

The Art School, Glasgow

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Keith Bruce

THE enigmatic multi-monikered beginnings of The Phantom Band has obscured whether any of them actually went to art school, but they do seem like the most art school of the current crop of Scottish bands. So launching their third Chemikal Underground album, Strange Friend, in the reborn Vic seemed highly appropriate.

It would also have been odd if frontman Rick Anthony, on relatively garrulous form, ignored the tragedy of the fire across the road, and his suggestion that the Mackintosh building was "bruised but beautiful" brought a heartfelt round of applause.

The return of the band won its fair share of cheers too, not least because they do seem firmly back on track, after the band's admired but less commercially successful second set, The Wants.

I was unsure of the lighter tone and dominance of Andy Wake's ­retro-keyboard noises on Strange Friend at first, but I've come round to it.

It rightly dominated proceedings on Tuesday evening, with album opener The Wind That Cried The World in the same slot in the set and Clapshot and Sweatbox selling the Phantom Band's new pop goods as well live as they do on disc.

New drummer Iain Stewart's powerful playing is also a valuable asset.

There is a real contrast with the earlier music though, and understandably the loudest acclaim comes for a terse and punchy Folk Song Oblivion and The Howling, from debut Checkmate Savage. It is those songs that require the three-guitar frontline of Duncan Marquiss, Greg Sinclair and Anthony and pack the biggest punch.

The fact that the sextet choose to encore with instrumental Crocodile from the same album suggests that the band know it too.