Music » Livewire

Phantom Planet

With Guided by Voices. Friday, April 5, at the Beachland Ballroom.

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Usually, the drummer's a nuisance -- a guileless, toothless oaf confined to the back of the tour bus and the background of band photos. Unlock his cage for shows, keep him from drooling all over himself, and for God's sake, keep him away from the ladies.

Not so with Phantom Planet -- without the drummer, you probably wouldn't know these guys at all. It's not that Jason Schwartzman's drumbeats for this L.A. alternapop quintet are terribly distinctive. It's just that he played Max Fischer in Rushmore, making him a cultural icon for wiseass nerdy genius types nationwide. Thus, Phantom Planet and its new disc, The Guest, cut to the front of the hype line.

Fantastic movie, subpar band. Oh, sunny guitar pop will never go out of style, and such tunes as "California," "Hey Now Girl," and "Lonely Day" get the job done. But there are also big-time doofus moments (quoth the power ballad: "'Cause the whole world/Needs an anthem/And I'm hoping everyone will sing along"), and every gallon of ink slathered on these dudes means less press for far more deserving subversive popsters like the Fountains of Wayne. It's clever and catchy, but it reeks of nepotism. And yeah, maybe that ain't fair, but it works both ways, I guess.

I bet they're really wacky live. They have to be.

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