We seem to place a lot of emphasis on age in this country. Always respect your elders, we are told (if Uncle Ernie wants to mow the carpet, let him). We can’t possibly have the solution because we are too inexperienced. We haven’t seen enough to know anything. Sondre Lerche could be a great role model for us all. This youthful, Norwegian pop songwriter has been making albums since he was 19. Now, barely 25, he has released his fourth full-length album entitled Phantom Punch. Its time we give this experienced youngster (oxymoron, right?) a little credit. Sadly, the only person in this country that will listen to my completely unfounded rants on the media and aliens is my mom. Well look out, Oslo. I’m young and really stupid!
Phantom Punch is the most rock that Ol’ Sondre has ever been. A big departure from last years jazzy Duper Sessions, this album will get your toe tapping and voice singing. Catchy choruses and raw, twangy guitars steal the show this time around. The major problem with Phantom Punch would have to be the lack of staying power. Few songs really stick out on this release, and the ones that do, are by far the worst tracks. The extremely long (and boring and eerie and bizarre) closer entitled “Happy Birthday Girl” should have been left in the studio to never be heard from again (like my short-lived days as a Barista). The song is neither poppy nor fun, it has no place on this album.
“The Tape” is not catchy in the conventional way. You won’t be singing the words or chorus, but you might be humming the catchy guitars for a while. “Say It All” features light female backup vocals and simple, “stop and go” guitars. The riffs throughout Phantom Punch won’t amaze you with their technical shredding, but with how effortless and effective they come across. This album also features some pretty decent guitar solos on “The Tape” (complete with harmonica), “Say It All”, “Phantom Punch” and an impressive face-melter on “John, Let Me Go”. Speaking of the title track, it’s fantastic. Dancy guitars, that at times sound like a The Rapture B-side, are accented by scratchy production and a chorus that is tasty like (fat free) bonbons.
The acoustic songs on Phantom Punch sound beautiful, but the lyrics suffer. I will let Lerche slide, simply because English is his second language. “Tragic Mirror” showcases Sondre’s soft falsetto and impressive range. “After All” is by far the best track on Phantom Punch. The song features a simple drum beat, strange background noises and a beautiful vocal performance by Sondre. His voice is (of course) the biggest musical turn-on throughout. Sondre’s backup band, the Faces Down, do an admirable job but are ultimately overshadowed by the pipes of the handsome Norwegian (if I had a nickel).
Originally slated for release last year, Phantom Punch might have been overshadowed in the crowded indie market. Luckily for Lerche, 2007 seems to be the perfect year for us Americans to take a musical stroll down the streets of Bergen, Norway (always research!). Also, a heads up. If a Norwegian ever asks you what number comes after 3, don’t look like a punk, say Fjord!