From the nest of post-modern despondence now firmly established in South London, Phobophobes recently issued their glorious debut album, Miniature World. With Saul Adamczewski’s Insecure Men playing days before, Phobophobes are passed the baton of bleakness to wave around Salford’s Eagle Inn before heading back to headquarters. Miniature World, indeed.
Whilst the missing presence of ex-Fat White Family drummer Dan Lyons – currently showcasing his impressive solo project at SXSW– was sadly noted as they set up, the unceremonious blast into the title track, ‘Miniature World’, gave us a 45 minute window to forget absentees. Keyboardist Chris OC, also of Meatraffle, welcomed Salford with an organ fit for a Jekyll and Hyde sequel, should there ever be one. And, although the gang of six had limited physical waving space on the miniature stage, they managed to transform their sold-out show into a resounding presentation of how the morbid can be enjoyable and, in the case of Phobophobes, so undeniably catchy.
Out of the chaotic period following the loss of guitarist, George Russell, the band came together with a serious DIY intensity matched by intelligent, verging-on apocalyptic lyrics that brought the record to life. Most songs abide by a similar formula. The rock‘n’roll sensibility marches off, chorus in hand, into a sordid fairground on the wrong side of town. Take ‘No Flavour’, beginning like a car backfiring, the gravelly strum of the guitar sets into motion a song that seconds later roars into the carnivalesque, with frontman Jamie Taylor disdainfully growling ‘No Flavour’ over the top, digging at the hollowness of pop culture. Whilst the following line, ‘the only thing that burns is hell’, by now felt familiar in the bleak portrait Phobophobes were painting, The Eagle Inn heating system clearly thought differently, seeking to add Taylor’s forehead to the list, and mine soon after.
Watching the final crescendo of ‘Human Baby’, ‘The Fun’, and ‘Naked Rambler’, building towards heavy hitter, ‘Where is My Owner?’, made clear the significant achievement of Phobophobes’ first record. Their ability to move from their distinctive psychedelic garage-rock to the sermon-like ballad of ‘Naked Rambler’, and to the space in-between, brought to mind — as much as they may shake the comparison — the vivacity of the Fat White Family’s ‘Champagne Holocaust’ tour. What distinguishes Phobophobes is a more nuanced presentation of modern absurdity. Leaving Salford asking, ‘Where is my owner? I thought that I came with one?’, the audience takes home an indication of how Phobophobes are a fit voice to express a vulnerable society’s phobophobic inclinations. Whilst the future feels gloomy for us all, at least there’s more good music to look forward to.