Initially, this album rang aloud with overtones of Queens of The Stone Age, but without Josh Homme’s brooding vocals. The impressive vocals here are more like Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy, making for an interesting listen.
It soon becomes clear that this band are not afraid to experiment, even within the confines of individual tracks. ‘We Are The Blind’ is a prime example of this, and gives lead singer Paul Morricone ample opportunity to grind his axe: ‘Welcome to the never-ending intestinal tract you will come to call your vocation…Those of you with a functioning brain must report to your supervisor immediately / Whilst those of you with merely the vestigial remains are hereby promoted to supervisory status’. It would seem Morricone belongs firmly in the ‘Those who can’t, manage’ camp. I think it’s safe to say he prefers working with a microphone to working in that ‘intestinal tract’.
The song works itself into a mildly furious riff, kept in check by pounding drums, followed by more delicate piano work, and a bile-full and slightly sinister rendition of the ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ line made famous by The Shining.
I wouldn’t wanna be his supervisor.
This outburst is succeeded by a complete contrast. ‘They Put You on A Pedestal’ falls somewhere between the nostalgic, harmonic vibe of The Last Shadow Puppets, and the slightly indulgent singing style employed by The Divine Comedy.
It lured me into a false sense of security, because then comes ‘Twist The Knife’, where Paul Morricone menacingly whispers lyrics such as, ‘Solid and dependable, that’s me / But with a talent for casual violence’. Creepy bastard.
It was at about this point that I looked back at some of the previous track titles: ‘I Will Crush Your Heart’, ‘The Bristol Butcher’, ‘Blunt Force Trauma’. Hmmm…the signs were definitely there – and they weren’t particularly subtle either.
So they could well be sociopaths, but Scaramanga Six are capable of making some immensely listenable music. This album demonstrates that they’re not shy of mixing it up in terms of tempo and instrumentation, which I like. It also showed me that they can pull off complex song structures, which is obviously a good thing.
Liking what I heard, I went off looking for more – and found a lot more.
Reading that they’ve been around (in their earlier incarnation, Scaramanga) since 1995, I was surprised by my own ignorance. I’d managed to miss six albums and countless EPs, so I quickly devoured those earlier recordings.
What I found was as similar as anything can be to the self-contained hybrid of styles that is “Phantom Head”.
So if you’re a Scaramanga Six fan of old, you won’t be disappointed by this latest effort. And if, like me, you’re new to them, I urge you to give them a go. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed either – just maybe a little scared.