Sunday, July 18, 2021

The world is currently a sight for sore eyes – but Phobophobes are here to prescribe you with some ‘Modern Medicine’

Phobophobes have just dropped their much-anticipated album, ‘Modern Medicine’, via Modern Sky. 

Although the band have waited three years to release their second album, their aesthetic is so singular that it feels as though they have picked up where they left off. 

With tales of cynicism, self-deprecation, and introspection, Phobophobes have maintained their sharpness; in wit, humour, and honesty. ‘Modern Medicine’ is the awakening of a dormant project; not a dead one.

The Phobophobes are a quintet hailing from South London, currently comprising of; Jamie Taylor (Guitar, Vocals), Jack Hussey (Guitar), Chandler (Keyboard), alongside their newest members Daisy Smith (Bass) and Lisa Martin (Drums). 

Phobophobes do not only exist within the same musical realm as bands belonging to the ever-evolving music scene in London - such as Shame and Goat - they also share former members from Fat White Family and Meatraffle.


The album opens with ‘Hollow Body Boy’. Permeated by an artful tessellation of arpeggiating guitar riffs and creeping drums, the track is perpetually on the brink of collapse, as the band poke holes within the absurdity of modern life - and the deluded false narrators who wander aimlessly through it. Taylor delivers facetious yet pertinent lyrics, “If you’re going to build a wall / Can you build it around yourself”, until his deadpan vocals disintegrate into cathartic screams.


Propelling into ‘Blind Muscle’, energy is delivered as and when required. Phobophobes have previously described their album as a “topical patchwork of life”, and ‘Blind Muscle’ is the perfect example of this. According to Taylor, the track is about “a blind force, someone who can make a decision and doesn’t necessarily make the right ones”. With lyrics so tongue in cheek that Taylor may as well be blowing raspberries, “Do you want to meet in the presidential suite?” he coaxes comedy out of tragedy.


‘Moustache Mike’ touches on the human experience in a progressively more schizophrenic society, wherein time has become fragmented. The track is based upon a performer that the band encountered on a few occasions, who suddenly disappeared. As the track builds up into visceral crescendos, Taylor’s haunting vocals attempt to create a mental timeline – inevitably leading to a lack of agency, erupting into soundscapes of chaos, as the band are forsaken with a proliferation of possible realities.


‘I Mean It All’ shuffles in, greeting us with a three-chord ballad, reminiscing the memory of a failed love. Rather than driving the song forward, Taylor adopts a contemplative tone, merging with the melodramatic instrumentation that accompanies him. Practically whispering, “But I mean it all when I’m with you”, against the foreboding soundscape, creates one of the album’s more atmospheric and lyrically perturbed tracks.


‘Mono Into Stereo’ opens with haunting vocals, a relentless rhythm, and a customarily powerful drumbeat, as the folk foundations set in stone. The track allows its listeners to accompany Taylor as he wanders through his memories of people and places before descending into jagged soundscapes. The lyrics,“You call it home”, are delivered in a biting yet nostalgic manner, until the track quickly transitions back to its menacing style.


‘Muscle Memory’ ebbs and flows with slow, sad strings. Built upon unequivocal lyrics, such as “I’ll take anything but the truth”, the band immediately create a sense of unease. ‘Muscle Memory’ tackles the aftermath of loss head-on, following the death of their bandmate. Taylor’s repetition of “In the darkest part of my hell hole”, accompanied by hollow drums and swirling electronics, creates a quietly unsettling ballad. This track showcases how the band blend consuming soundscapes with their dynamism and instrumentation.


In this portrait of impending loss, death, and doom, Phobophobes have never sounded more alive.  


Best tracks: ‘Muscle Memory’, ‘Modern Medicine’, and ‘I Mean It All’. 


Aimee Dodd

Image: Modern Medicine Official Album Artwork

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