Phantom Limb - Phantom Limb

Richard Wink 28/11/2009

Rating: 3/5

For only thirty pounds you can acquire the services of Phantom Limb's singer Yolanda Quartey. She runs a vocal coaching clinic that includes speech therapeutic singing, now this is very important because Phantom Limb is what you might call a laid back chill out record. Quartey is simply capitalizing on her gift, after touring with Massive Attack and receiving rave reviews for her contributions at the recent Meltdown gigs, and more recently working with Will Young it seems like the right time for Quartey and her band to make a play for greatness.

Phantom Limb raises the old chestnut of how far can talent alone gets a recording artist. I mean if we were judging this record on vocal ability alone then it would be worth five stars, but nowadays rightly or wrongly you need something more, something that separates you from the rest of the pack. A gimmick, a brand, a look, anything that allows you to stand out, it can be as ridiculous as a haircut, but if that haircut makes people curious about what you do, then you're winning the battle.

The album is surprisingly country tinged, almost folky from the Amazing Grace like opener 'Don't say a Word' to the Dylan during his Christian phase sounding 'Withering Bones'. Quartey's voice the constant sonic rapier that cuts the listener down to a blubbering wreck as 'Good Fortune' and 'My Love Has Gone' tug at the old ticker strings.

When Phantom Limb hit the heights they sore - tracks such as 'Run', 'We Will Carry' and 'Draw The Line' are soulful and anthemic, polished to immaculacy. The problem with the album is that it is too perfect. I know what you're thinking - “Christ, how is that a bad thing?” Well, a factory might produce a perfect chair from a machine; however it will always lack the qualities that come from a handmade chair, the little inconsistencies, the odd marks, the specs of blood from when the woodworker had a little accident. Phantom Limb is almost machine like in their proficiency, technically faultless, but unable to become innovative and interesting. I wouldn't completely rule out this album attaining some success, I mean the likes of Katie Melua and Corinne Bailey Rae have flourished as artists despite lacking charisma, and there is certainly a market for polished inoffensive soulful, bluesy folk.