Phantom Planet is the Hollywood pedigree of pop-rock

Mike Schoeck

Just four years ago they received driver’s licenses and had their major record label debut land on Geffen Records. Singer Alex Greenwald claims to have gotten his license revoked since then, but now his band, Phantom Planet, is ready to make some rock n’ roll.
“The Guest” is the Southern California poster-boys’ sophomore release on Epic Records and can very well be the most anticipated new band of the year, as it hits stores Feb. 26.
The Earth shook and heads turned from indie fans and the mainstream masses alike when ‘The Strokes’ became the biggest New York City band of the city’s new era. New Jersey emo boys ‘Saves the Day’ also stand as the freshest faces of the latter day punk resurgence aside from MTV’s Green Day and Blink-182.
‘The Strokes’ and ‘Saves the Day’ along with Phantom Planet are the new breaking faces that are the rock mold for 2002.
In a traditional sense the best times for new quintessential bands are times of struggle, war and tragedy. Like many epidemics it can bring a certain cure to a distraught younger age bracket. This is no exception to new fans of the Los Angeles band.
Max Fisher is the Phantom drummer and songwriter with Greenwald. Remember Jason Schwartzman’s over-achieving character as the nemesis of a sad Bill Murray in the 1998 comedy “Rushmore.”
Timed somewhat appropriately with the release of “The Guest” is Schwartzman’s new teen flick “Slackers,” which recently hit theaters.
The band has an indispensable production team behind its melodic pop and mellow acoustic flare. At hand are the acclaimed producing pair Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake.
Each have close to thirty-year careers working with a modest lineup including Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Crowded House, Pearl Jam and R.E.M.
With the single “California” being the first off “The Guest,” Phantom Planet placed themselves as a Brit-pop via Sunset Strip equivalent of Coldplay, but also pluck themselves into the era of vintage pop-rock.
“Always on My Mind” and “One Ray of Sunlight” capture this shift with pop-rock bounce, handclaps and an abundance of the common catchy sing-along chorus.
In a decade only bands falling under the treads of Weezer, Ben Folds Five and the Eels have been able to resurface a classic pop-rock gem standards.
With Phantom’s blend of modern rock Greenwald can radiate along with the famed California Sun, as well as Jackson Browne and even Elvis Costello.
The band calls Jackson Browne one of their inspirations and they have covered “Somebody’s Baby” with the same proto-1980’s pop efficiency.
Covering a dozen similar tracks on “The Guest” the band at times nears redundancy and pretension.
Greenwald, Schwartzman, bassist Sam Farrar and guitarist Darren Robinson narrowly veer away from this pervasive chasm.
A ballad-paced “Something is Wrong” with mixed loops in “In Our Darkest Hour” and “Wishing Well’s” lo-fi piano somberness yielded an overall immaculate pop caliber.