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Checkmate Savage

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Album Review

Starting with the crisp Motorik click and synth crunch of "The Howling," Checkmate Savage finds the Phantom Band still engaged in a good hotwiring of fine templates that is starting to give the Scottish group more of its own identity. If the group perhaps inevitably recalls some of the strongest rhythmic moments of a similar forebear in fusion, Stereolab — the chunky but fluid beats and ghostly guitar of "Crocodile" could just as easily come from that group as from joint wellspring Neu! — then the Phantom Band still have their own take to provide, at once graceful and almost sternly focused, something which comes out perfectly in the surging conclusion of that same song. A good amount of this comes from easy, clear singing, which gives the band a bit more swagger than some of the more po-faced neo-art rockers out there now. As a result, a song like "Folk Song Oblivion" has some of the direct kick of bands like Pavement or the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience at their best, catchy and shimmering, but that same feeling is equally evident on the instrumental closer "The Whole Is on My Side," ending the album with a soft glow.

Customer Reviews

A fantastic, varied, and inventive rock album.

What a tremendous surprise this has been. Someone suggested I check this out and it caught me by surprise as it's hard for me to get into rock music these days. This is a fantastic, varied, and inventive rock album that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Top 3 so far in 2009 after Fever Ray and Andrew Bird. (Yeah, it's only late February as I write this, but it's been a good year in music so far.) Standout track for me is Left Hand Wave, but it's a solid album over all. Great stuff!


Formed: 2002 in Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Phantom Band's history is one of anarchy and mystery, full of relentless name changes (Les Crazy Boyz, Tower of Girls, Robert Redford, Robert Louis Stevenson, etc.), obscure cassette and CDR releases, and multiple side gigs. By 2009's Checkmate Savage however, the group seemed to settle on both a name and a general sound (a blend of noise, folk, and brooding Nick Cave-like dark touches). The band is known for unpredictable live shows, where they've worn bags on their heads or employed Stairmasters...
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Checkmate Savage, The Phantom Band
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Customer Ratings

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