Best of 2009: The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage

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Before I put out any kind of Best of 2009 list I plan to write a bit about some of my favourite albums of the year. Re-reviewing a couple, but mostly – because for the first half of this year at least Aye Tunes was shit at reviews – reviewing them for the first time, even if they’ve been out for ages. I’m not touching albums of the decade, I think my brain would explode if I tried.

Waaaay back in January I got all excited about the debut album by a Scottish band I’d spent a chunk of 2007 and all of 2008 stalking, catching live as much as I could and playing the Hell out of the one single of theirs I owned. That debut release was Checkmate Savage by The Phantom Band. To say it was long awaited by me is a bit of an understatement, ever since catching the band supporting Mother & The Addicts in August 2007, while they were still unsigned and everything, I’d been desperate to hear more from them.

Thankfully when the album eventually hit in January it didn’t let me down. Every time I’d seen the band they sounded a bit better and by the time I got to hear the songs recorded they sounded fantastic. Despite my familiarity with some of the songs from live shows the whole album sounded fresh to me. Nearly 12 months it still sounds fresh with each listen, and there has been a lot of them over the course of this year.

I’m fairly sure there’s a rule that when talking about The Phantom Band you have to talk about Krautrock, and it does rear it’s head a few times throughout the album, especially on Crocodiles, but it is just one of many influences and styles that crop up throughout. The swampy rhythms and occasional staggering riff grab hold of you, hold on and take you along for the ride.

Checkmate Savage is an assured, mature debut, no jitters by a band finding their feet are noticeable to me. I’m sure having veteran producer Paul Savage on board helped with that, but nonetheless, it’s a fine debut that never fails to be rewarding and lives up to it’s ambition.

My only issue with it is that having lived with the earlier single version of Throwing Bones for so long (it was named one of my favourite tracks of 2007 on one of my old blogs), the new version on the album still doesn’t feel quite right to me. A minor quibble at best, other than that the ablum remains one of my favourites of the year.

The Phantom Band – Folk Song Oblivion

The Phantom Band MySpace