FISTS | Phantasm
by Tom Spooner
Having been at the helm of Nottingham’s burgeoning music scene for more than a few years now, it seems remarkable and more than a little selfish that FISTS have only just got round to committing their schizophrenic lo-fi sound to record. It may be long overdue but thankfully Phantasm is more than worth the wait.
FISTS manage to avert the revivalist slacker-grunge gaze away from the testosterone scuzz of Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement et al, and onto the mighty Kim Deal. The album goes some way to readdressing the gender-balance by celebrating the female acts of the 90s US indie scene, chief amongst them the Amps and The Breeders as well as a nod to Belly, Sleater-Kinney and Mazzy Star.
The songs Solvent, OMG and 2009 single Cockatoo form Phantasm’s core, each track successfully ramping up the contrast between the melodic and muscular to dizzying effects. Angi Fletcher delivers big bittersweet vocals over frantic strumming, intense tub-thumping and the kind of riffs that bring to mind oversized plaid checked shirts, DMs, cut-off denim shorts and bruised knees. The contrast between her vocals and the distorted guitar is a dynamic that brings these musically nostalgic tracks bang up to date.
Although it is perhaps its most striking component, Phantasm is much more than a mere reappropriation of female-centric grunge. When James Finlay takes over vocal duties, the mode switches and we are treated to a punkier, more urgent sound. In particular on the distinctly macho blues of Flaneur which recalls Archie Bronson Outfit until it gives itself over to Sabbath-style stoner riffing. Similarly, the angsty post-punk charge of Straw Dog is a surprising detour. Even the lengthy hypnotic Malian blues of YR Glove, featuring the somewhat unsettling refrain of “Got myself some love, put it on with your glove”, still has a deserved place on Phantasm.
It is testament to FISTS’ dedication to the eclectic and sheer vitality that they can carry off such a feat. On Phantasm, FISTS deliver eleven musical punches. Some are gloved, the impact softened by intoxicating melodies, some are bare-knuckled and brutal, and some are short sharp jabs but it is the unexpected blows, of which there are many, that really knock you out.
Phantasm is released through Gringo Records and Hello Thor Records on limited edition vinyl and
digital download on Monday 8th July. Buy it here.