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Phantom Planet Phantom Planet Is Missing (Geffen)
by Michael Henningsen
Music: Tiny Tunes (Weekly Alibi . 04-05-99)

Ironically, it's difficult these days for pop, that most accessible of genres, to get anything resembling a mainstream audience, unless you're, say, Semisonic or Fastball, two bands boring and derivative enough to be embraced by those who actually feel The EDGE is a moderately interesting radio station. This lack of exposure is particularly frustrating when it happens to bands like Phantom Planet. Named after a 1961 drive-in classic, this L.A. quintet's debut is commercial enough to be echoing out of radios worldwide and substantial enough to intrigue those who want more than a catchy but forgettable chorus.

The songs are hook-laden guitar pop somewhere between early Cheap Trick and late Posies, accented by intriguing sounds and textures, courtesy of a Chamberlain (the early-'60s precursor of the Mellotron) played by Michael Penn collaborator Patrick Warren. Singer Alex Greenwald has a somewhat depressive, often angry point of view that combines intriguingly with the relatively upbeat melodies, especially on the opening "I Was Better Off" and the outstanding "Recently Distressed." Sadly, Phantom Planet will most likely never get the wide exposure they deserve, since this album was released just weeks before Geffen Records was shuttered as part of the Universal/Polygram merger. Grab it before it slips through the cracks.

Phantom Planet
"Phantom Planet Is Missing"

by Mookie Singerman
Untitled Document

It seems like it has been years since a band has achieved critical acclaim with such a simple album. In an age where tons of layering in the studio and electronic instruments are the ways to make an original album, Phantom Planet takes us back to the basics. The band's refreshingly teenage sound is no surprise, considering that not one member of the band is over 21 (they range from 18 to 20).

On the debut album, "Phantom Planet Is Missing," this young quintet from LA finally returns to the great "alternative-album formula" (the formula being based around quiet verses, distorted choruses, and teenage problem lyrics).

With teens like Hanson and Eve 6 ruling the charts, it seems that youth and unlistenable music go hand in hand. Yet, Phantom Planet has put out an incredible album with momentous melodies, poignant lyrics, and a helluva good aftertaste. Songs like "So I Fall Again," "Lisa (Does It Hurt)," and "Recently Distressed" are brilliant examples of how teenage angst can provide the most powerful attitude toward the music that a band approaches. With Weezer-esque guitar licks and lyrics that can be compared to the best of any alternative act, "Phantom Planet Is Missing" is an incredible feat for a debut record.

Phantom Planet has already topped many of the bands that they obviously take after; and with room to grow, its hard to believe that they won't get to where many of the biggest alt-rock acts are today.

Here's to the best album of the year.


Phantom Planet
Is Missing

by Lisa Olen
Ink Nineteen: Phantom Planet

This statement sums it all up in Phantom Planet's "Don't Get Down": "I want to live on the moon/ and never see a human again/And as the Earth explodes/I'll light a candle for my dead best friends." For anyone who can reflect upon their teenage school days and see a kaleidoscope of daggers held by the likes of ex-flames, friends they thought were friends, or basically anyone who could say they had a reserved spot at a school lunch table -- Phantom Planet's Is Missing is a musical pharmaceutical of self-help resources for you.

     This five-piece band residing in California has recently gotten media attention in part due to drummer Jason Schwartzman's brilliant portrayal of a wannabe Ivy League intellectual geek in love with a classy British school teacher in Rushmore. Why it took this long for this young yet highly prolific and talented group of songwriters/musicians to get noticed puzzles and disturbs the mind, quite frankly. Not in quite some time have I seen teenage artists able to convert what appears to be entries out of a personal journal into meaningful lyrics and then infuse that with an incomparable sound that mixes Beatles-esque pop harmonies, Brit-pop electronica, and primal grunge. The lyrics to "Recently Distressed" ("You see my wings are on the fritz/ and I can't even get up off the groun/ I'm really sorry for this mess/ because it all came crashing down") further illustrate how this band relays personal messages without becoming so deep and esoteric as to limit its understanding to just the songwriter.

     Consisting of Darren Robinson (guitar), Jacques Brautbar (guitar, vocals), Alex Greenwald (lead vocals, guitar), Schwartzman (drums), and Sam Farrar (bass, vocals), Phantom Planet (whose name originates from a 1960s film about a planet filled with poisonous air) cleverly mix studio effects to their vocals, giving songs like "Don't Get Down" a supernatural feel. In "Lisa (Does it Hurt You)?," the addition of 1950s ballad baselines and early 1980s synthesizer progressions on the chorus combines great remnants of both generations of musical style.

     I think anyone who listens to music tries to find some answer to all the good or bad experiences in their lives. A certain song tailor-made to help someone deal with the pain of the past gives that person a positive escape through music. Is Missing does just this without becoming too preachy or poetic. If allowed to grow with this release, the band will re-define once again what the music industry has so conveniently labeled alternative music by infiltrating musical influences from over four decades into a unique sound to carry itself into the next millennium.

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