Many moons ago when I walked uphill in ten feet of snow both ways to get to secondary school. The music department was populated with insufferable dorks who would lecture anyone within earshot on music’s death and subsequent stinking decay post-1979. This snobbery still exists in the present day, and I’m left wondering exactly where this incredibly soundproof rock these people are demonstrably living under is located. While they undeniably vary in quality, there are a legion of bands keeping the 70s sound alive, and occasionally besting their influences. Danish blues rockers Freddy and the Phantoms are in this retro-fetishist legion, and their third release, Times of Division, sees them vying for a position in the elite ranks with a boozy and bluesy showcase of fun tunes.
Unsurprisingly, Times of Division would make a great soundtrack to a night of drinking with friends. Freddy and the Phantoms are an energetic and live sounding band, and have conveniently sequenced Times of Division to resemble a live setlist, making it easy and enjoyable to put on and listen to in full. The album flows wonderfully, with the driving hard rock numbers placed alongside the slower and more bluesy songs to keep the proceedings from getting stale or monotonous. While Freddy and the Phantoms‘ sound is decidedly in the same vein as Graveyard and Rival Sons, greater emphasis is placed on the blues elements here, leading to the band sounding like blues musicians running their songs through the hard rock wringer instead of a hard rock band liberally dabbling in the blues. While I’m normally bored by slower songs on retro-rock albums, the near total abandonment of hard rock on “Storm on the Riverside” and “Sinking Ship” completely won me over with a down-to-earth and authentic blues sound.
The best parts of Times of Division are the more energetic ones, and hook-filled, hard-drinking jams like “Borderline Blues,” “No Time,” and the title track steal the show with infectiously catchy songwriting and the phenomenal blues-based vocals of Frederik “Freddy” Schnoor. It’s not all great stuff though, as Times of Division does take a minor yet noticeable dip in quality on “In the Attic” and “No One to Blame.” Keeping with the live setlist feel, these two songs are consecutive and squarely in the middle of Times of Division, but the sheer quality of the songs they’re sandwiched between keeps them from being overly detrimental to the album.
Times of Division‘s live feeling carries over to the production as well: guitars sound like they’re screaming out of real tube amps, bass is overdriven and mostly audible, drums sound live and natural, and the Hammond organ evokes Deep Purple‘s Machine Head era in both performance and sound, with a ridiculous callback to “Highway Star” in the title track that’s too great to go unmentioned. Sadly the mastering gives me the nearly-brickwalled blues, and while I’m aware that some of the best live shows are fucking loud, I don’t need my recorded music mastered to emulate that. It’s not atrocious, but a bit more dynamics would’ve served Times of Division well, especially when the music is tailor made to be cranked up to eleven.
Freddy and the Phantoms aimed to make a fun and memorable album with Times of Division, and they succeed by crafting songs that bring together the most fun aspects of 70s style blues and classic hard rock. I’ll definitely be coming back to this quite a bit throughout the year, and I’m actually glad I didn’t get the chance to use my “they blue it” pun I had in the chamber in the event that this was awful. Times of Division has a heart full of blues and is a whole lotta fun, and is definitely worth giving a spin or twelve.