The Phenomenal Handclap Band - Form & Control

Despite its disappointments, there is still plenty on ‘Form & Control’ for anyone who enjoyed their debut to appreciate.

Label: Tummy Touch

Rating: 6

New York funk and disco collective the Phenomenal Handclap Band struck retro funk pop gold in 2009 with their eponymous debut album which contained the almost ubiquitous single, the Tom Tom Club aping ‘15-20’. The group strive to repeat that winning formula of disco and psychedelic rock on their second full-length album ‘Form & Control’, however their retro dance sound is not quite so effective second time round.

The robotic disco rock of opening track ‘Following’ features vocalist Laura Marin exhorting to ‘Come & Join Us’ and throughout the rest of the record we join the group for a record that is steeped in authentic and, it has to be said, exceptionally crafted disco rock. The funky basslines and drum break beats are all in place; however, there seems to be a spark missing and all too often the songs fail to truly take off after promising starts.

That is not to say there is not some great stuff here though; ‘Form & Control’ does see the band broaden their sound to a degree. ‘The Written Word’ is an immersive prog rock inflected jam full of tricksy guitars and breaks while the title track is an endearing piece of unashamedly overblown rock. ‘Give’s’ funky electro strut is perhaps the highlight here, reminiscent of Beth Ditto’s recent work with Simian Mobile Disco it is by far the most upbeat track and the track most suited to the dance floor.

The early Phenomenal Handclap Band material was characterised by a wonderful sense of vibrancy and looseness but at times on ‘Form & Control’, it appears that some of that early charm has been traded in in favour of a stymieing rigidity and a tighter sound. ‘The Unkown Faces At Father James Park’ and ‘Afterglow’ both suffer from disappointing chorus that negate the focused sound. The breezy and playful closing track ‘The Atttempt’ does show, however, that the group have not lost all their charm and it is a lovely way to close the album.

The second album from the Phenomenal Handclap Band may not contain anything as exciting or danceable as the highlights of their debut but, despite its disappointments, there is still plenty on ‘Form & Control’ for anyone who enjoyed their debut to appreciate.