Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Haunted by Phantom Ratio

It's been just about a week since my last post went up, and as I'm trying to get back into an easy routine for you guys, I decided today would be a good day to show you something new. In fact, new is probably the wrong word altogether: these guys are breeding a sound so old and classic that's it's taken on new life in our day and age. I was too young to truly appreciate the greats of punk-rock in their heyday: Sex Pistols, Ramones, Black Flag, Fugazi, The Germs; these were all groups I missed in their prime, though I love listening to them now. And as I was getting heavily into Nirvana and Soundgarden a couple years ago, I came across the name of a group as I was reading Kurt Cobain's journals: Wipers. I checked them out and immediately loved their style of classic punk-rock and their no-frills approach to instrumentation.
Now, just a week ago, I get a Facebook message from one Brad Davidson, a former member of Wipers who played with them for many years. I was psyched to say the least, and any skepticism I might have originally had was blown away after Davidson asked me to take a short listen to his new band, Phantom Ratio. These guys are as classic punk/sludge-rock as you can get, and there's no doubt in my mind that they're the brainchild of a former Wiper and friends. It's almost as if the Wipers and Melvins got together and had a child: a sick, twisted, demented monster of a kid that loved to play loud, fast, and hard. 
Straight out of San Diego, California, and composed of former Wiper Brad Davidson (bass and vocals), E. Raymond S. (guitar) and Jimi J. (drums), Phantom Ratio just drips from the speakers like ooze from a broken pipeline. The first track I listen to is "Secret Invention," and what a fucking wild ride it is. Jimi J. counts off and clocks in as Raymond S. takes off on a riff that is in every way something I'd expect from Eric Clapton. The brilliance already in this group's cohesive sound is that they are able to marry blues-rock riffs with grunge and punk rhythms. Davidson's vocals are gutteral yet oh so clear, the Mudhoney words of a new generational grunge-rock band. The bass lines are serrated and heavy-hitting, and the drums blast your guts apart as the sharpened guitar riffs cut into you with their demonic feedback, clipping you to tiny little pieces. This song is pure, straight-forward punk rock. This isn't for the weak-hearted. But that doesn't apply to me, and I fucking love it.
Track two's "Screw Your Face Up" is no cleaner than its predecessor, and for that I toast the gods of rock. The feedback, the reverb, and the simple yet powerful drumbeat reminds me of Melvins' "Eye Flies," and already I love it. If you guys are looking for pure, polished pop melody and catchy hooks, look elsewhere, this song isn't for you. But if you're looking for something powerful, hedonistic, and delirious with teenage alienation and disgust, then this track will definitely screw your face up. This is what they play during a montage of slides showing how fucked up the world is, and how apathetic we really are. That's what it means to me anyway. Great rhythm, pumping bass-lines, guitar notes that resonate with you, and vocals that tear you from your apathy, that's what this song boasts, and if you ask me, that's a hell of a lot more than most nowadays. 
I could go on and on. "Gravity" was a frickin' masquerade of blood and guts behind two guitars and a drum kit, but the one I really love is "God Told Me To." A total "fuck you" to everything organized religion stands for (again to me at least), "God Told Me To" is just a total full-throttle forward into the madness of punk rock. Davidson's vocals are grated and gritty, his bass-lines groundbreaking, as Jimi J.'s drums push and pull you in a virtual mosh pit of melody and rhythm. Raymond S., meanwhile, busies himself with shredding his guitar to bits, and by the way the notes are coming out of the speakers, his fingers must be smoking because those riffs are just blasting through my head faster than I could even imagine. The hooks are clear, and as is so rare with a hardcore punk song, this is one that I can hum and air-guitar even after it's done. Brilliant, I fucking love it. 
These guys have so few plays on their Myspace that I don't even think they break 100 plays with all their songs together. That, my friends, is an F-ed up tragedy: these guys are frickin' incredible, and I can only imagine how insane their live shows must be. Waving the banner of everything that the underground is all about, Phantom Ratio are true punks in a modern world where they have become an almost extinct breed. Maybe that's too philosophical, I don't know. I do know one thing: these guys fucking rock and if you don't believe me go listen for yourselves. Punk-rock is alive and well. Long live DIY.

Sounds Like: Mudhoney, Melvins, Wipers, Green River

Key Tracks: "Secret Invention," "Screw Your Face Up," "God Told Me To," "Gravity," "The Growth"

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