Young rock bands with a gift for energy and melody may not be easy to find, but there are more of them than there are record contracts to sign or airplay slots to fill. Who the band members know, or what notoriety they possess outside of the music business, may unfairly make the difference between the band that hits a wall on the local club circuit and one that becomes a "buzzworthy" artist on VH-1 or MTV. Would Phantom Planet be on a major label if its lineup didn't include L.A. show-business kids Jason Schwartzman (star of Rushmore), model/actor Alex Greenwald (recently seen in Donnie Darko), and Sam Farrar (son of Grease songwriter John Farrar)? Probably not. Does the band deserve the attention anyway? Maybe. Phantom Planet's second album, The Guest, gets the full West Coast alterna-rock treatment, including layers of crunch and polish provided by producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake. When the big-league costume slips over up-tempo pop-rock balladry as buff as "California" or the buoyantly happy-sad "Lonely Day," the meeting of well-crafted melody and thoughtful studio wizardry can only be described as apt. A good rock song, fully realized, can restore faith in the whole capricious, corrupt star-maker machinery. It doesn't even matter (much) that most of the rest of The Guest sounds indistinguishable from the work of hundreds of similarly congenial, guitar-slinging music-makers toiling away without corporate support. Sometimes the chemical X in rock stardom is charisma, and the guys in Phantom Planet get by on theirs, even when they're not behind their instruments. Given a choice between listenable power-pop by nobodies and the same product by cult movie stars, who's going to say no to a little glitter?

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