Jason Schwartzman, exit stage left. The role of Phantom Planet drummer will now be played by Jeff Conrad, with The Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann presiding. For this performance, everything is a bit unexpected: “The Happy Ending” comes first, “1st Things 1st” comes later, and “The Meantime” comes last, but not before the premature “After Hours,” which is exactly the kind of happy ending Phantom Planet needed. With the exception of “After Hours,” the sunny hooks of Phantom Planet’s The Guest are replaced with explosive, discordant choruses (lead single “Big Brat,” “Knowitall”), the guitars are crunchier, the rhythms are jerkier, and the vocal layers are grittier (“Making A Killing”). Alexander Greenwald’s voice is more detached and cynical (“There’s nothing for me/I’m starting to feel old,” he sings on the opening track “The Happy Ending”). Hot off the success of their hit “California,” which has been given new life thanks to Fox’s new hit series, “The O.C.,” these moves could be viewed as bold, brave, or calculated, a fledgling band’s attempt to harness the popularity of Garage Rock. Songs like “Jabber Jaw” sure feel derivative of The [Strokes, Hives, White Stripes], but for a band emulating a paint-by-numbers movement that never pretended to offer anything new in the first place, Phantom Planet play dress-up as if their careers depended on it. It’s all very fashionable (if not fashionably late), but Phantom Planet makes one yearn for the sunshine of “California.”
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