If you were just judging a book by its cover, you would have every reason to think Phantom Planet was a pretty-boy vehicle spewed out of the shallows of Hollywood. You might misinterpret frontman Alex Greenwald's demeanor as snide and empty. You might also point to the fact that hip actor Jason Schwartzman was once the drummer. But Phantom Planet provides the quintessential example of how appearances can be deceiving. Not only does the band cram its songs with catchy hooks but it demonstrates an even more proficient knack for grooves that recalls the assertive ska-inflected thump of early Elvis Costello and the Attractions, but with an original twist. It's no small feat, but Phantom Planet does a masterful job pulling from new-wave influences as well. It's as if the band has resurrected '80s pop rock as something fresh, vital, and decidedly modern. The music overflows with hidden surprises, while Greenwald makes art of a tuneless singing approach. When he sings "you can toss it into that pit/of emptiness you're pregnant with," he brings jaded L.A. to life. Although he might sound weary, he stays one step above it all, and the music bounces along as if it's what's keeping him from being dragged down.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.