Rockbrat Introduces You To: Phantom Blue

If she-powered rock n roll is your addiction, and you hold the Runaways, Joan Jett and Girlschool close to your heart, then make some room for Californian outfit Phantom Blue. I make no secret of my fondness for this lot, a couple of sweaty live gigs in London a while back still fresh in my memory whilst their 1994 LP ‘Built To Perform’ is forever etched onto my Desert Island Disc list. I once wrote that they were ‘the Runaways of the 90s’ – hefty praise indeed and (although bands like The Donnas are now closer to the mark) it’s a comment which I still stand by. But aside from the obvious similarities of being an all-girl band from LA, it was the over-all strength of ‘Built To Perform’ which is where I was coming from (see album review in VK1). Big hooks, catchy time changes and a ton of melody – which only the likes of Currie, Jett and Co. used to exude. Four years on, Phantom Blue are still tearing up Sunset Strip stages with the same ferocity, but with a hungry new line-up. Only hardhitting drummer Linda McDonald remains from the outfit that cut 1989’s self-titled debut LP, with long time vocalist Gigi Hangach cutting ties with the band last December. Dutch born Lucienne Thomas recently replaced Gigi as lead singer and is already receiving hot reviews. The band originally formed in 1987 in Redondo Beach, blasting the local club scene with their loud metal tunes that quickly got them noticed. Signing to Shrapnel Records after only three months, they cut their first album – a solid, promising collection of razer sharp HM before undertaking a sold-out tour of Europe. Upon their return to the States, a major label bidding war ensued, with Geffen Records ultimately winning out. Karen Kruetzer replaced guitarist Nicole Couch in time for the recording of ‘Built To Perform’, another album that I will take to the coffin with me. Another European tour followed and was once again a tremendous success – the gal’s melodic metal onslaught just the tonic for the grunge weary youth ! Phantom Blue got lost in the shuffle when in 1995 Geffen was sold to MCA, and a decision was made to leave the label. More shows across America kept the machine well oiled, before ‘Prime Cuts and Glazed Donuts’ (which came with a very cool PB comic book) hit the shelves. A third victorious European tour in 1996 was again lapped up by hungry rock fans, keen on devouring the devastating all-girl fire power that Phantom Blue deliver. That same year, the band picked up the Best All Female Band award at the first annual Rock City News Music Awards and more recently, Linda McDonald walked away with the ‘Best Performance-Drums/Percussions’ Award at the 7th Annual LA Music Awards in December. Phantom Blue have recently released their 4th album ‘Caught….Live!’ which features some new band personnel. Joining Thomas and McDonald are new gals Dyna Shirasaki on bass, and a stinging guitar duo consisting of Josephine and Tina Wood. Recorded at various venues around the States and Europe, ‘Caught….Live!’ captures all the sweat and energy of the Phantom Blue live experience. Imagine if you will, being at the wheel of a semi, in rush-hour traffic, with the pedal well and truly floored ! Turn this sucker up loud and you’re on the road – and seeing as how this rockin’ unit have never toured downunder – a ride in this cabin is about as close as you’re gonna get to being there. Furious, hard hitting rock with a metal edge, the album has many highlights; it’s hard to go past the burning album opener ‘Anti-Love Crunch’ or indeed ‘Little Man’ – two of the strongest tunes off ‘Built To Perform’ and here sounding fucking hot ! New cuts ‘Violin Song’ and ‘Bleeding From Nowhere’ display great versatility and will hopefully make it onto the next studio album. The blaze rages on with some slamming cover versions – try Thin Lizzy’s ‘Bad Reputation’, Janis Joplin’s ‘Move Over’ and a sizzling take of the Sabs ‘Fairy Wear Boots’ out for size ! ‘Going Mad’, the frenzied long-time favourite lifted off their debut record closes the set, leaving your adrenalin to return to it’s regular pulse. In September Phantom Blue will be playing at the Rock City News 3rd Annual Awards show, where they have been nominated in five categories ! The band then return to Europe in October for a run of shows there, and this exciting, new look line-up will also be hitting the studio soon to start recording an EP with all new material ! Phantom Blue have long rocked my world and ‘Caught….Live!’ is a perfect introduction to Australian readers – it’s been one helluva ride so far, so why not join me – your ears and eyes will be thanking you for it.
Note: Article originally appeared in Vicious Kitten Fanzine – 1997

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