On March 8th the Water Rats in London was hit by a dose of wunderenergy that shook the venue by the resplendent Phantom Planet in what can only be described as an excellent finale to their whirlwind European tour. Any concern or criticism that may have arisen due to the changes in the make-up of this delightfully edgy LA-based 5-piece in the two years since they last touched UK soil was immediately expelled.

After Jason Schwartzman left mid-way through recording their latest album to become a fulltime *actor*, there were rumours abound that they had given up the ghost. Instead, the transition seems to have been remarkably easy. They recruited Jeff Conrad, a drummer who they have known and admired the work of for years. Raw, physical and highly emotive, they remain as intuitively connected and unaffectedly stalwart as ever.

Without warning they shake you to a core beneath the core you thought was your core. These guys play for the audience, not at them with animation that demands participation. In return for our undivided attention we are treated to the revved up mania of Jacques Brautbar’s guitar, Sam Farrar’s furious bass, and Darren Robinson and Alex Greenwold dropping everything to race to Conrad’s percussion in a manic onstage three-way.

Unfailing responsive to the needs of their devoted followers, we are asked if we’d like to hear 'Always On My Mind' (how could we say no?), given the choice between 'Lonely Day' and 'California' (Lonely Day all the way!), mocked for our ecstasy when they announce 'Knowitall' (“I expected more from you, but you still get the song!”), drenched in champagne, and urged to chant along. By the time they get to their new single, 'Big Brat', a smirking and insouciant finger at the Hollywood *scene* (and perhaps at the long lost Mr. Schwartzman?), we’re all kicking off the meta buzz of this candy for the senses. Feeding off our rabid fan lust, Greenwald leaps atop his amp and, swinging the mic cord over a support beam on the ceiling, falls bat-like to sing over the first rows.

While there remains a level of the sunshine and lovin’ that drew earlier crowds, the addition of Conrad has welcomed a harder, more full-on sound that shoves unflagging bass and drums to the forefront. It is an evolution that grew within a myriad of contradictions. Infectious high energy is complimented by a veneer of clear skies and picnics in the grass. Artful Ogden Nash lyrics are sutured with the persistent pummelling glare of Greenwald’s vocals. Dizzying and frenetic pulsating sneers collide with slow musical interludes that drain into nothing but... Thank you. Therein lurks a subversion of garage-rawk: a gritty and raw edge that remains as highly polished as it is highly calculated.

*'Phantom Planet' by The Phantom Planet is out now, and whether you were at the gig or not, go buy it.












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