Review Summary: Sometimes we get in a car wreck. Sometimes we listen to Phantom Planet
In April of the year 2008 I was headed to my first concert. I didn’t necessarily like any of the four bands I was going to see - in fact I had only heard of the headliner (Panic at the Disco) and I didn’t even like them all that well. I was invited by a girl who looking back probably liked me as more than the friend I had decided she was, I just went along for the experience. And I got an experience.
The concert was 4 hours away and we had gotten off to a late start. Thus Caity’s neurotic mother was driving faster than she should have around a recently dampend country road. This caused the large SUV to spin out of control off of the road into a pole, removing the front bumper. For all intents and purposes the accident wasn’t that bad, the bumper fell off but there was no damage to the passengers . So after 30 minutes or so we were back on the road arriving, just in time for the first act to finish their set. The band’s name was Phantom Planet.
I’ve always had a weird relationship with music in that I am very comfortable with what I like and am not overly concerned with expanding my horizons. When a band really grabs me it is usually because of som big event that my brain connects with the band. For me seeing Phantom Planet was the alternative to getting into a car wreck. A few months later I got their album Raise the Dead and I was instantly impressed by how good it was.
That was ninth grade, and while I’ve matured out of almost everything I listened to back then Phantom Planet, and especially this cd, has continued to stick with me. The album does a lot to be musically interesting, and with the exception of Too Much Too Often and Leave Yourself for Somebody Else, no two songs sound the same. Some songs, like the two I’ve mentioned and the title track, are the traditional Beatles-esque pop rock that the band was famous for, and the darker, more heavily distorted songs like Confess and Demon Daughters succeed just as well. Even the few ballads are handled well, which is an especially good thing because there are only two. Both Quarantine and I Don’t Mind do a lot to break up the album, strengthen the themes, and provide diversity.
Several of the songs are great, and while there are no throw away songs, all of them are at the very least good. Even the two I mentioned in the paragraph above that are similar separate themselves enough to be inoffensive. I can’t imagine the album would be any stronger if one of the songs were cut. This is perfect because though the songs all stand well alone, what makes Raise the Dead such a joy is how cohesive the whole cd is. The cd is paced perfectly to show off its many musical styles and the majority of the songs are actually improved by the order in which you listen to them. They spill into each other with the last beat setting the stage for the next song to begin. None of the transitions between songs ever feel forced or jarring, and they are often very pleasing. One of the best examples is also the first, at the end of Raise the Dead we have just heard Alex Greenwald give a career highlight vocal performance of high energy wailing (if it sounds odd, that’s because it is) and the song fades out with the echo of a guitar, but then like a dead man who’s heart has just been electrocuted back into working order we are shocked into the beginning Dropped and glad to be there. It’s an odd thing to put in such high praise, but the track list is one of the things Raise the Dead does best.
I mentioned earlier that I had an interesting relationship with music and so while the car crash issue may have been enough to get me to listen to Raise the Dead it would not have been enough to get me to like it, what did cause me to enjoy it was the album’s horror b-movie themes. One track in particular is the song Leader, a little ditty about joining a cult. Some of the lyrics from Leader are “There are so many signs the end is near/ leader told us so besides/ we’ll follow him blind to and fro/ wherever he decides to go,” there is so much cult rhetoric and it’s all complimented by a choir of children cooing along with the chorus. It unsettling to say the least, but it works very well.
If you avidly follow music I won’t doubt that you will find some things wrong with Raise the Dead. It isn’t perfect. It’s all basically the pop music that has been around since the 60’s and I imagine you could also find a band that has dealt with the b-movie themes even better. Some people will simply have issues with the lead singer’s voice, which is not very strong in a traditional sense. It doesn’t evolve the genre, but if you look at it for what it does well instead of what it does best, then I think you will really enjoy Raise the Dead.