Having gained acclaim for their previous single, the atmospheric ‘MAR V’, London’s Phantom Isles return with another warped indie disco banger in the form of their new single ‘Whip’. Whereas its predecessor came across like the messed-up love child of Simple Minds and Foals, ‘Whip’ is a frenetic floor filler that falls somewhere between Nile Rodgers’ Chic and 90s weird pop masters, Mansun.
Frontman Peter Marchant’s vocals flip between cooing falsetto in the verses and a more forcefully delivered chorus, undercut by tight octave and harmony backing throughout to great effect. With echoes of Paul Draper, fans of Mansun’s Attack of the Grey Lantern may well find a lot to love here. It’s a confident performance, and sits perfectly in the slick retrofuturistic mix. Around him fly warped synths and a giddily restless bassline that never seems to let up, while the electronic-tinged drums keep everything firmly rooted in solid ground. At least until the final third anyway, when the band throw in a face-melting guitar solo for good measure.
Lyrics such as “Apologies to the one who finds me / The one who finds me in the light of day / It’s been a weekend that you didn’t need to ruin / You got so high you didn’t know what you were doing” bely a darker theme than the music itself suggests, and the relatively vague nature still allow wiggle room for interpretation. For me, one of the highlights is the somewhat bizarre breakdown around two thirds of the way through, amid a fog of arpeggiated synth, and complete with an ominous pitch-shifted vocal that urges you to “Put your hand against the television set / Hallelujah” like some kind of evangelist preacher from the future. It’s all very odd and, basically, brilliant.
It seems that Phantom Isles have been going from strength to strength since arriving on the London scene, and with ‘Whip’ that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon. On their Spotify bio, the band – Peter Marchant, Joshua Guy, Jonny Longland, and Sam Thorne – talk about the devastating loss of founding member and original bassist, Matt Marchant in 2019. They talk of being more determined than ever to make visceral, cutting edge art pop music, and with ‘Whip’ that’s exactly what they’re doing. It’s a great song, fizzing with ideas, and hopefully there’ll be many more where it came from.