October 14, 2003

The Planet The "Physical Angel"

Sometimes a record doesn't do justice for a band. Many bands grow and mature quite quickly, so that by the time their album appears, they've already moved on from that point. In the case of many bands, it's simply due to the fact that they've taken a long time to release their album, their songs are either quite old, or they're simply not the same band that they were beforehand. Whatever the case may be, it's an annoying fact of life, but it's one that's gotta be accepted.

That's certainly true in the case of Portland, Oregon's The Planet The. This trio's new album, Physical Angel, marks their change from a raw, garage rock sound to a frantic, new-wave crazed funk. I saw them several days ago, and I have to admit that The Planet The does not do them justice. Live, this trio channels the spirit of Brainiac--not hurt by the fact that synthman Dave Huebner bears more than a passing resemblence to John Schmersel--and lead singer Charlie Salas-Humara's antics onstage are very Timmy Taylor. Onstage, they're a powerhouse; they've got personality, they've got presence, and they're quite captivating. If anything, they're quite entertaining.

Sadly, if you've never seen them live, then Physical Angel doesn't quite capture the magic, at least it didn't do it for me. True, it's a pretty fair representation of how they sound, but there's a flatness to the recording that can't be denied. For instance, the swilry guitar and synths of "Man Called Wife" are merely OK on record, but in the live setting, the song is a nonstop new wave raver. Don't get me wrong; the studio versions of songs like "Toledo Vader" and "Marc Artery" are excellent, and the best song of the album "Arty Movie," is worth the price of admission. It's a vocodered-out track that's just a whole lot of fun both live and in the studio. (Still, you're missing something by not seeing Charlie run about like a madman, and no record can capture that.)

Ya know what? I'm not worried about it too much. After all, many awesome bands had debut albums that weren't quite as spectacular as later releases or their live show, and The Planet The's an excellent band. Give them some time (this is but their debut, after all) and I have a strong feeling that they'll put out a record that fully captures their magic. The Planet The's a band that's certainly worth watching out for--and if they come to your town, do not--I REPEAT, DO NOT MISS THEM LIVE. You'll regret it.

--Joseph Kyle

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