Phantom Voices are a six-piece band from Lancashire, Peace By Peace being their second album. With five vocalists and eleven instruments to choose from their style doesn’t lend itself to easy categorisation.
The opening ‘Lovely Joan’ is classic folk-rock with a country edge and an all-too-brief electric guitar break from Daz Rice. The other traditional song, ‘Molly Vaughn’, is driven by Richard Curran’s fiddle and Joanna Byrne’s vocals have the in-your-face quality that makes Stick In The Wheel so compelling. Phantom Voices have taken some liberties here; what can be a soft despairing song rocks and it’s great.
The title track, written by lead vocalist Mike Rolland (although all the original material is credited to the band), was inspired by the discovery of WWI military map and is a protest about the futility of war. It’s a superb song. I do think the album needs a lyric sheet, though. With the aid of a press release one can learn that ‘The Thomas Salto’ is the story of Soviet era gymnast, Yelena Mukhina, who broke her neck trying to master a complex and dangerous routine. ‘Old Ned’ tells the story of a hangman sentenced to be hanged for stealing a horse thus presenting the authorities with a logistical problem. The closing ‘Phantom Of The Fell’ is a ghost story and cautionary tale – although the story-teller admits that he had been celebrating and then claims that he is actually dead so where does the truth lie? What a way to finish.
‘Loving You’ is clever pop-rock driven initially by Mike Rolland’s mandolin – reminding me of another Lancashire band – and ‘Kitty Breaks’ is a brilliant song even though I have no idea what it’s about. Peace By Peace is a fine album even though I’m sometimes frustrated by my lack of understanding.
Artists’ website: www.phantomvoices.com