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Album Review

Oakland's Phantom Limbs have returned with Displacement, the finest example yet of the quintet's blasphemous organ punk. Suggesting the Murder City Devils if they had listened to parlor music backwards or collaborated with famous Bay Area Satanist/organist Anton LaVey, the Phantom Limbs are as adept at scaring listeners as they are at rocking them. Stevenson Sedgwick's frantic church organ sound twists seductively around the spine of each song (the trunk of each apple tree?), as perpetually tortured vocalist Loto Ball screeches couplets like "I hate the wounded man/Who staggers/Into my arms/Convulsing and puking." Squalls of guitar and a teetering-in-time rhythm section provide fast-burning fuel for this freaky funeral procession, which is as much post-punk as it is postmortem. As they did with 2001's Applied Ignorance, the bandmembers again prove to be masterful song-namers. The psycho-love Naked Lunch science project of "Wrenches and Spoons" finds Ball embroiled in a dream duet with the mysterious Louise Gas. "Caressing the doorknobs and fondling keyholes," he says; "Feels so close to the truth/I want you," she screams. It's a flailing cross between "Death Valley '69" and "Paradise By the Dashboard Light," and gasps for air like a couple caught in a sinking coffin. Of course, the organ's prominence can't help but suggest other, similar combos or sounds; for example, the intro to "Romance" recalls that of Ray Parker, Jr.'s "Ghostbusters." But since the Phantom Limbs seem to throw themselves bodily into each moment of Displacement, they sell even its scant weak moments. They ain't afraid of no ghosts.

Displacement, The Phantom Limbs
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