Phantom Punch (Astralwerks)
My first thoughts upon hearing Phantom Punch, the latest release from Norwegian pop wünderkind Sondre Lerche: “This sure sounds a heck of a lot like Phoenix’s It’s Never Been Like That.” Both albums are characterized by bracing guitars and spiky yet safe New Wave-y pop (and, coincidentally, both are on the Astralwerks label). Briefly, if you enjoyed It’s Never Been Like That, you’ll probably also dig Phantom Punch.
On the surface, you might say that Lerche is spreading his wings here and attempting a harder sound. Once you get past the noisy façade, though, Phantom Punch continues the melodic accessibility of his 2004 breakthrough, Two Way Monologue. Tunes like “The Tape” and “Face the Blood” bristle with the crafty energy of This Year’s Model-era Costello. His lyrics are clever without being smart-assed, contributing to the album’s consistent quality. The only dissatisfying track is the 7-1/2 minute closer, “Happy Birthday Girl”. Lerche has talent to spare at the age of 24, but he seems too young for this kind of numbing self indulgence. Give him at least five more years before he does a lumbering double-disc Prog Rock tribute.
Buy the album at Amazon.com.