Phantom Planet hedges

New on CD

The new CD moves closer to formula

Music: in concert, CDs

January 22, 2004|By Tom Moon | Tom Moon,KNIGHT RIDDER / TRIBUNE

That Phantom Planet, the smart power-pop band once anchored by Rushmore actor Jason Schwartzman, would move even an inch closer to the ubiquitous Puddle of Mudd modern-rock formula -- shredded Ramones rhythm guitar, syrupy backbeat, distressed sensitive-guy bleating -- is cause for dismay.

But like so many recent projects with commercial aspirations, this long-awaited third effort, Phantom Planet, is a hedged bet: Though the first few songs offer utterly typical massive guitar chorales ("You're Not Welcome Here"), No Doubt-ish ska ("Badd Business"), and pole-vaulting backbeats ("Big Brat"), the second half holds some deceptively clever and nuanced rock.

The amazing "Making a Killing" follows a Strokes-style path, riding high-attitude rhythms to early-rock glory, and "Knowitall" and "The Meantime" strive for Radiohead's jabbing, relentless intensity. Though Schwartzman left in August, the quintet has grown since its 2002 effort, The Guest -- newly reissued to capitalize on the exposure of "California," the theme of The O.C. And even when the guitars steamroll over everything, as on "By the Bed," there's a sense that this band is expanding the worn-out genre with the slightest hint of anarchy.

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