Very few actors have been credible musicians. Even more embarrassing are musicians who try acting. Sure, both acting and music require conveying emotions and taking on a persona (which may or may not be the performers'). But in reality, they are radically different disciplines. It's like expecting someone who speaks Spanish to be able to master Chinese. It just ain't so. Add to that the question of "credibility" and it's hard to get out of the gate.
Early on, Phantom Planet was known for having actor Jason Schwartzman on drums. To the group's detriment they were regularly dismissed as the actor's "side project." During that period Phantom Planet pursued a passable but unfocused course. They released "Phantom Planet Is Missing" in '98 and followed four years later with "Guide." Then Schwartzman departed and Conrad stepped in.
Leading with the fun single "Big Brat," Phantom Planet released their self-title third album in January of '04.
Having just begun recording what was to be "Raise The Dead," Phantom Planet's contract with Epic Records expired. Fortunately, they landed with Fueled By Ramen (Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Panic At The Disco).
"Raise The Dead," released in April, '08, dealt with cults (you know, those fun ones started by folks like Charlie Manson or David Koresh). "All bands are kind of their own cult, you know, but we want to take it to a new level," said Greenwald in an interview. "But a band can't be anything without the people to love it. Our goal will be to recruit and befriend as many people as possible with our message."
In an effort to build a band 'cult' and move some merchandise, the group refashioned their logo - now a circular graphic of piano keys that seem to morph into a shirt sleeve with a hand emerging from the cuff.
The first single was "Do The Panic" but the song that anchored "Raise The Dead," at least metaphorically, was "Leader." "The Leader is the hand," explained Greenwald referencing the band's logo. "He is the hand that plays the notes we sing to."
"The idea is that we're going to sell a lot of these sweatshirts (with the logo) and all the kids will show up in them so the entire audience looks just like us," said Farrar. Gotta love Marketing 101.
"Raise The Dead" is a dense, acoustic based effort laced with dark themes (as the name implies) that are lightened by the arrangement and Greenwald's vocals.
"Do The Panic" sounds like early Kinks - post-"You Really Got Me"/ pre-"Lola." The title track has a healthy dose of '60's informal looseness heard on outtakes and b-sides. Jumping decades, "Quarantine" could pass for a Radiohead track. Having said that, it's actually pretty good. Interestingly, toward the end of the set Phantom Planet really hit stride with the brilliant "Too Much Too Often" and "Leave Yourself For Somebody Else." "Leader" is good but for all that is hanging on it, the song's dynamic falls short of expectations.
"Phantom Planet" is led by the rave Rocker "Big Brat," a great song. The catchy "First Things First," the dense kicker "Know It All" and the set's best song "By The Bed" put it over the top.
Their '98 debut "Phantom Planet Is Missing" is a diffuse effort with the mournful jangle Rocker "I Was Better Off" and the jaunty "So I Fall Again" being the most memorable. "Phantom Planet Guide" picks things up a bit and contains "California" which was used on Fox TV's "The O.C"