The Phantom Lovers - Heroes and Idols
Bill Cummings 08/02/2008
There are currently hundreds of thousands of unsigned bands crying out for your attention online, for every Arctic Monkeys myspace style success story there's a sea of mediocre bands who may have the right sound on paper but lack the real song writing quality and individualism to stick their head above water, falling down the trap door marked "obscurity" on your friends list along with Katie that blonde model from Texas, who told you that you "looked hot" but on closer inspection was dissapointingly some fake spam profile.
The Phantom lovers draw members from across the globe, stylish Canadian born front lady Elsie Martins leads this curious five-piece now based in London. They release their first Richard Causen produced download single "Heroes and Idols" themselves, (presumably a song about being let down by them) and initially the portents are good; dark melodic waves of percussive instrumentation sewn intricately with violas, dark guitar clangs, and thudding bass, brooding impressively in shadowy corners like a Sisters of Mercy fan skipping carefully from foot to foot, vaguely reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs" or the work of the Bad Seeds shorn of Mr Nick Cave. But by minute two you're checking your watch wondering when the chorus is going to appear it all begins to resemble a dirge resembling one lonnnnggg verse rather than a well constructed piece of work. Martins' unusual vocals strain towards the melancholic power of an early P J Harvey or the stream of consciousness of “Horses” era Patti Smith, this is obviously an intentional style an attempt to balance seductive against the clawing, but they're too inconsistent, dipping off the full completion of notes and falling off melodic lines like a cat mewing and scratching down dark blind alleyways. "Heroes and Idols" desperately needed to step up a level but it never does. In fact, it feels like it's on life support waiting for electro shock to get it started. When the break down of the chorus finally appears it barely registers.
Gothic live acoustic b-side "Craven" has a certain spectral gothic charm but it too lacks dynamism and the lyrics fail to engage fully, a rather flat melody it sounds a little one paced sounding rather like a poem set to music rather than a set of dynamic song lyrics.
The Phantom Lovers do have something, they have a good image and some well chosen influences but like many unsigned bands before them these two tracks show a band who aren't yet fully formed, their sound a little too ethereal and unstructured, rather like their moniker.