There are bands which borrow so much from other sounds and acts that their own sound is hard to distinguish. Phantom Planet is one of those bands, melding tones from White Stripes, early Radiohead, and Muse to formulate a sound that gets less and less compelling by the second.
With the band’s debut, Phantom Planet Is Missing, the group toyed with redoing Beach Boys songs with infusions of (surprise!) surf rock. The follow-up contained the single “California” and brought the group some mainstream popularity c/o The OC and Mischa Barton.
With their latest, Raise the Dead, Phantom Planet heads right into the sphere of dull pop-rock humdrum in search of instant gratification and big radio hits.
Early on in the recording process, the band’s contract with their record label expired and they signed a new deal with Fueled by Ramen, the home of such boisterous characters as Fall Out Boy, Paramore, and Panic at the Disco. Having played on TV shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and appeared on the soundtrack for Not Another Teen Movie, one can easily get a sense for the audience Phantom Planet aims for.
Raise the Dead takes Phantom Planet’s evident influences and stuffs them in a whizzer for less-than-tempting results. Songs impersonate their influences outright, like the crusty White Stripes drive of “Geronimo” or the Muse-inspired-mania of “Dropped.” Eventually the influences all crowd each other out and it feels like a compilation album from better bands as opposed to bright new material from this Tony Berg-produced “effort.”
If one is able to get past the omnipresent copycat sound of the majority of the songs, Raise the Dead does aim somewhat at being a amusing little summer album. The funky Dave Gahan-esque “Too Much Too Often” is a respectable tune, as is the unusually conventional but satisfying “Do the Panic.”
Overall, however, Phantom Planet’s latest simply lacks the originality and ingenuity required to stand alone as a good rock album. The compositions are simply too rented to have any lasting meaning.
Raise the Dead might make the deceased flinch a little, but it won’t be raising any corpses any time soon. Too morbid? Nah.