The Phantods are a current hometown favorite on the independent alternative scene here in Columbus. They are in rotation at CD-101 (at 102.5) and play regularly throughout the area. But the question comes up in many people's mind when they hear a local act get airplay on their favorite station is "Do they stand up to the national acts I hear on the radio everyday?"
In this case, theanswer is an emphatic "yes." In short, the music is exciting, the lyrics make you think and their live performances live up to the promise of the music. Take a close listen to this whole album and you will find a variety of styles ranging from driving energetic rock of the title track "Creature" to the rockabilly-influenced "Just Like You", to the gypsy-rock "Thieves".
Taken as a whole, it works beautifully and I recommend highly. The opening track on the album is the title track "Creature". It announces a self-confident thread that I found runs through the album. Not a cocky arrogance, but a mature confidence borne of time and experience.
I've been waiting for the right time
But I've no heart to ask them
Why they do all the things they do
And if it's any consolation
I'm my own creation
And the same should apply to you.
In recent reviews, I've talked about a sense of place (Kings of Leon) and sense of time (Iron & Wine). In this album, the theme that strikes me is a sense of self. The lyric "I'm my own creation, And the same should apply to you" perfectly illustrates the point. This is a song of strength and self-confidence. It's the kind of song I want my kids to take to heart and God knows, I've played it for them enough times this week thinking about what this album says to me. Here's the video:
The song "Blood of Kings" is a rock and roll gem. It's got a great hook that drives through the song with urgency.
We're both so lost and broken
Guided by words unspoken
We may be better off alone
It is the blood of kings
That moves within my veins
Take the name away from me
But their mark will still remain
You ask me am I to be
Sensitive to what you sing
The light inside has made me this way
Another songs that struck me on this album is "Under the Moon"
I've got my reasons to feel like I do
You can't take them from me
Cause it's what I've been through
Again, the self-awareness and acknowledgement the past in this song is gut-wrenching, but it doesn't ask for pity. It boldly announces without apology a point of view and insists that we acknowledge.
The finale of the album is "Our Last Goodbye". It's a song that reflects on the past, but also takes a confident stand in the present:
We're still here after it all
Through the night I can still hear you call
It's your voice that haunts me inside
It's your voice that keeps me alive
I've got my reasons to feel like I do
You can't take them from me because it's what I've been through
Once again, it's getting late on Sunday night and rather than fully develop a couple of other thoughts I have on this album, I'm going to pull the old bulletize trick and lay them out for you. I'd welcome your thoughts and helping me hash out these ideas:
- Sometimes, I'm listening to this and I hear a cross between Joan Jett and James McMurtry.
- I like the production values of the whole album. Consistently good musicianship throughout. Great guitar and drum abounds.
- Gretchen King has a powerful voice that rings true and stands up to the big sound that accompanies her.
A Rant About Supporting Local Music
In the digital world, it's easy to dismiss your hometown team as good, but not as good as the "national acts." But you're missing out if you don't appreciate your own homegrown talent. Columbus is thick with great musical talent. Great musical talent is all around us, and we have a responsibility and a self-interest in supporting a vibrant homegrown music scene.
Let me just give you a vignette about the type of connection you can have with a local artist. I ordered the Phantods' new album "Creature" shortly after release. Since I still like to have a piece of plastic in my hand and I appreciate album art, I try to buy albums rather than digital downloads (although I do buy a lot of music on digital download). Unfortunately, when I go the CD a couple days later, it was broken into pieces by the USPS. I sent a note to the Phantods via their website, and within a matter of hours, I got not one, but TWO replies from members of the band apologizing for the inconvenience and promising a replacement, which I promptly received.
I don't expect that one day when I meet this band that they'll remember this, but I will. It's an object lesson in actual connection with fans that every artist should take to heart. It makes a difference in the way that fans think about you. The Phantods earned my admiration not only for their music but with their responsiveness and willingness to interact. I love U2, but I don't expect that if I received a broken CD from them that I would get a reply from Bono.
Anyway, enough about this. I think you get my point: a lot of great music comes not from the remains of the mainstream music industry but from our own backyard. Support local artists and you can enjoy a relationship with them that you simply will never get from the majors.