Twenty Years and Still Kicking – Phantom Rockers

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It’s hard to believe that Phantom Rockers have survived twenty years in the business. As one of the most obscure bands of original British punk-a-billy, I can’t imagine they’ve ever sold more than a few thousand copies of any record worldwide. How does any band survive like that? (By touring constantly, I suppose.) Despite the shitty haircuts and horror imagery, they play more of a dogged punk-a-billy than over-the-top psycho-billy, and they aren’t terrible songwriters. Over the years they’ve absorbed some Americanisms: a hint of the blues here, and a dash of NYC café rock there. The ghostly reverb of Mark Burke’s bass lends a demo-like quality to some of the songs. Elsewhere, the bass is buried in the mud and the guitar drives the song, but there’s still a suppressed monaural quality, as if everything was recorded with one cheap mic through a Styrofoam wall. After thirty-two tracks, Burke’s limited vocal range can start to wear a little, but in the current world of what passes for punk, you could do a lot worse than this.