After the much-deserved blog-hype of 2009 hit psych-soul single, “15 to 20,” New York’s ’60s-tinged disco-funk collaborative, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Phenomenal Handclap Band[/lastfm] (helmed by producers Daniel Collas and Sean Marquand), the band spent the next couple of years putting out a remix album, working on their sophomore effort, and touring with [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Roxy Music [/lastfm]maestro and glitter-soaked music auteur, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bryan Ferry.[/lastfm]
In slurpy synth whorls of electro-disco-funk fused with ’60s pop hooks and their quintessential psych-soul sound, Phenomenal Handclap Band definitely experiment with a certain kind of “form and control” in their new album of the same name, Form & Control.
With vast, dark lyrical storytelling, end-of-world-ish warnings, sonic paranoia, and reminders of the conscientious humanity versus the robotic or otherworldly, each song in Form & Control seems like a concise narrative vignette that falls into a throbbing, diamond-strewn sheath of potent, punctuated sonic pop art.
“Following” sets the tone with a disco dance beat, synthesized vocals, funky-robot rock, and a Soul Train style dance breakdown in the middle of the song.
Swirls of cosmic percussion create an uplifting kind of sound while the tone of the lyrics is rather menacing, “Who do you think you’ll be following in this room?” says the human voice while a robot voice replies “come and join us.”
It makes us wonder (and worry) about what kind of room the band may be talking about. A dance hall or a alien-esque den of inequity?
It’s hard to tell, especially when the band then breaks into what could easily be called an homage to the movie Let The Right One In in “Right One,” especially with lyrics like “We tore down statues/Just to see their roots/overstayed the welcome of youthful pursuits/so while you keep trying again and again/we’ll just wait and let the right one in” getting lost in a funky, groovy timpani, a sample of the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Human League[/lastfm]‘s “Don’t You Want Me,” and what sounds like a psychedelic sitar.
“The Written Word” is presumably a song about a relationship with a ghost with lyrics “It had been about a year since I started my affair with your spirit form?” and “I heard your disembodied voice, I heard shards of glass” and is perhaps the sexiest song in a cool, technically pleasurable melange of art-rock nuggets.
Like the next song on the album, the dark “The Unknown Faces At Father James Park,”a paranoid version of the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Small Faces[/lastfm]‘ “Itchycoo Park” strewn with ’60s girl group sounds.
“Shake” and “The Attempt” vibrate and shimmer with sociopathic vindication, a female voice singing in “Shake” that “I’ll be watching you/don’t turn my head to look away/I’m possessed by you/It’s just a feeling I can’t shake,” while a male voice sings in “The Attempt,” “You made an attempt on my life/I’ve wanted so badly to get it back/don’t misunderstand/I meant revenge/what else did you think I meant?”
And in a sonic puddle of scattered lights diffused by a precariously swinging disco ball, it’s hard to tell with Phenomenal Handclap Band whether we are dancing until we die or dying to dance.
[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Phenomenal Handclap Band[/lastfm]- Form & Control (Tummy Touch)
2. The Right One
3. The Written Word
4. The Unknown Faces At Father James Park
6. Form & Control
9. Winter Falls
10. All Cliches
12. The Attempt