Oh no, where did they go: Phantom Planet

I was introduced to Phantom Planet by an old girlfriend. The first album I ever heard from this Southern California band, The Guest, I ripped from a cracked disc. After I gingerly put that CD into my computer and checked out the musical goodness, I was in disbelief that I’d never made the leap to check out this band that hit it big with the theme to that teeny-bopper dramafest “The O.C.” with its song “California.”

Sure, I’d heard that song before, but never paid attention to who actually performed it. I was younger then, naive if you will. Now, I find myself Googling lyrics to songs I hear on TV shows, commercials and in movies. Because it’s so much more common now even for indie bands to break thanks to being an ad, for, say, yogurt or Totino’s Pizza Rolls (Lykke Li and the band Irving, on those two counts, to be exact).

Here’s the thing though: I feel as though Phantom Planet — who supposedly take their name from a 1961 Sci-Fi B-movie– get a bad rap because their most famous song is associated with a show that, let’s face it, was cheesy. I put “California” on the jukebox at a bar awhile back and when I sat down at the table with my friends I was derided for choosing that ubiquitous tune.

But Phantom Planet don’t get enough credit for how well they do what they do: Craft catchy, fun indie-pop songs. They are one of the handful of bands that can put me in a better mood by listening. I wouldn’t go so far as to classify them as junk food — a quick sugar high that yields few healthy results — because the music keeps me in that good mood longer than it should.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a bit conflicted, and perhaps a little embarrassed by, my affection for this band. But I confess it to you because it’s been a part of my musical taste evolution, and no matter how hard you try there are bands that you just can’t help but revisit and still hold a place in your heart for, even years after you first discovered them.

Which brings us to Phantom Planet’s “indefinite hiatus.” It began in 2008, after the group put out its first brand new album in nearly 4 years. It was entitled Raise The Dead, and it was full of the same gloriously catchy and sugary tunes that made me first fall in love with them.

Little bit of trivia: Jason Schwartzman, darling of indie-films like Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, was formerly Phantom Planet’s drummer before leaving in 2003 to pursue acting full time. A smart move, as it turns out.

The band’s members get a little touchy when people say they’ve broken up. According to its Wikipedia page “Guitarist Darren Robinson posted this message on his personal Myspace page telling fans that they are not broken up: “We have NOT broken up. We are on an indefinite hiatus. That means we don’t know when we’ll regroup. But we are NOT broken up. I swear to you it’s not just a polite way of saying we have broken up. Got it?”

Sure, I’ve got it, Darren, but it doesn’t fill me with hope for a reunion. And so, this week’s edition of “Oh no, where did they go?” is an homage to younger, more innocent days filled with songs like the handful I’m giving you here. You know, the days before we get jobs and spend half our time preventing the man from calling us fat washed-up losers and crushing our souls.

Enjoy the tunes!

Product Details

Always On My Mind” By Phantom Planet (From The Guest, out now on Sony BMG)

Anthem” By Phantom Planet (From The Guest, out now on Sony BMG)

Product Details

Leader” By Phantom Planet (From Raise The Dead, out now on Fueled By Ramen)

Do The Panic” By Phantom Planet (From Raise The Dead, out now on Fueled By Ramen)

Product Details

Big Brat” By Phantom Planet (From Phantom Planet, out now on Sony BMG)

–Sean

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