The standalone release of the No Bells on Sunday EP outshines this brand new full-length album – so much so that when it shows up at the end of Phantom Radio (yep, No Bells comprises the last five tracks here, so no need to hunt it out if you haven’t already) it makes the album feel bottom-heavy, the last five songs the best tracks here.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to hear on the ten tracks that form the main album – Judgment Time puts that wonderful haunting quality within (and all around) Lanegan’s voice to fine use, Floor of The Ocean is an interesting example of the same textures and treatments used so brilliantly on the No Bells tracks but seeming a bit dull and slow here.
The problem then with Phantom Radio is that if anyone heard the EP first they would, unless they were the biggest Lanegan fan – and were therefore convinced he could do no wrong (and to be fair there are plenty of those sorts) – be left with more of the same but not as good.
Those fears I expressed in my review of No Bells on Sunday – about Lanegan’s languid, rolling work, about how sometimes the bite-sized bit was just right – play out here.
That he keeps contributing, connecting, collaborating – finding plenty to say…that’s all positive. But this one is a take-or-leave-it listen for me. Nothing offends. And occasionally there’s a mood I’m momentarily swept in. But I wait for the final five tracks. And I prefer to hear them as their own experience.