For much of their earlier career, Glasgow sextet the Phantom Band presented themselves with an attitude of irreverent charlatanry, releasing various D.I.Y. cassettes under band names like Robert Redford, NRA, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Their shadowy presence and refusal to take themselves or the music industry very seriously only added to their mystique, and by the time they settled on their final (and appropriately self-referential) moniker in 2007, they had built both a loyal following and a sturdier musical vision that blended Krautrock-inspired aesthetics with inventive and melodic indie rock. With each release under the Phantom Band shingle, they've embraced their creative spirit while honing an unusual but compelling sound that has a lot of tributaries feeding into it. On 2014's Strange Friend, their third full-length, they may have delivered their most satisfying and fully realized set to date. Opener and lead single "The Wind That Cried the World" is an expansive, vintage synth-propelled barnburner with a winding, almost folk-like melody, setting the table for the rest of Strange Friend's sojourn through folk, psych, rock, and electronica. The bright melodies and galloping rhythms of "Doom Patrol" take a harrowing left turn into outright sludge metal midway through the track, which is indicative of many of the Phantom Band's songs. Light and dark frequently collide as shimmering pop arpeggios run behind singer Rick Anthony's rich, Nick Cave-like baritone, like on the spacy but tender "(Invisible) Friends" and the percolating "Women of Ghent," which devolves into a lush, noisy midsection freakout before charging back out of the tunnel. Strange Friend is the rare record that allows ample creativity, attitude, and experimentation to live together without becoming tiresome or excessive. The Phantom Band's material is of a higher grade and their eclectic sonic blend only adds to this strength.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger