Tuesday, 26 March 2019

The Phenomenal Handclap Band - Form And Control (2012)


Released in 2012

This was the second, and so far, latest album from the somewhat unique psychedelic soul/funk band from New York City. It is the more accomplished of the two, for me. As I mentioned on my review of their first album, I saw them live in 2011 in London, supporting Bryan Ferry and they were very, very good. Since then I haven't heard or read much about them, which is a shame. This is a very interesting and unusual album.


1. Following
2. The Right One
3. The Written Word
4. The Unknown Faces At Father James Park
5. Shake
6. Form And Control
7. Give
8. Afterglow
9. Winter Falls
10. All Cliches
11. Mirrors
12. The Attempt                

"Following" is an impossibly catchy opener with real echoes of Tom Tom Club in its deadpan female backing vocals. The same slightly bored-sounding (or maybe cool and sexily detached) vocals continue on the spacey and futuristically funky "The Right One". Yes, there are influences of the eighties art pop of The Human League and Heaven 17, but there are "proper" drums here and and rock-ish bass sound. A track like "The Written Word" has hints of Roxy Music about it in places, with some also quite prog rock instrumental stylings in there. While the music is certainly retrospective, it also has a contemporary feel to it.

"The Unknown Faces At Father James Park" (a very early Thin Lizzy-ish title) summons up the spirit of disco-era Blondie, with the vocal sounding a lot like Debbie Harry. The quirky lyrics further the comparisons. "Shake" is another icily melodious Tom Tom Club-style track. "Form And Control" has an appealing piano intro and more ghostly vocals over a subtly rumbling bass. "Give" has an absolutely addictive synthesiser intro, very Human League. I can't help but use the word "quirky" again for the vocals. "Afterglow" is great - sort of synthy funk with some African-sounding drumming in places and also some chunky rock riffs. It is a fusion of all sorts of things. "Winter Falls" also has some rock riffage and "All Cliches" has an insistent drum, bass and guitar sound behind its airy, ethereal vocals.

"Mirrors" has a great bass line and an odd sound to it, once more it is an eclectic mix. There is even some Eastern-sounding psychedelic guitar swirling around. "The Attempt" begins like David Bowie's "Let's Dance" before moving into a sixties-style poppy tune. Lovely bass line again.

Overall, this is a beguiling album well worth seeking out. I have really enjoyed listening to it again.


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