While we would generally be aghast at the idea of indulging in sweeping geographic stereotypes, Phoenix‘s fourth album could possibly only come from a French band; drenched in Gallic chic, it mixes punchy guitar pop tunes with smatterings of French Touch, and, while frontman Thomas Mars’ distinctive vocal can sometimes veer towards the laissez-faire, the ten tracks on offer here are as tight as cyclist shorts. Top it off with four blokes with a predilection for dapper dressing and smart haircuts, plus a Hollywood squeeze in the ranks (Mars is shacked up with Sofia Coppola), and Phoenix would be serious tabloid fodder if they hailed from the British Isles. However, they always seemed just too sharp to ever get caught down that alley.
Tellingly, while they decamped to Berlin for predecessor It’s Never Been Like That, this is very much a hometown recording for the Parisians, with Cassius’ Philippe Zdar co-producing the album; the production is ultra-slick, but the record never feels false for it. From the off, its catchy, hook-laden, danceable indie music that could soundtrack a blissful summer or a Saturday night, but keep an eye out for the health warning signs; this ain’t exactly a happy-go-lucky record. Mars’ lyrics are dripping in malaise and conflict, spouting on barnstorming opener -Lisztomania’ that ‘Darling, I’m down and lonely’, while the seemingly chirpy -Lasso’ contains couplets such as ‘Forever is a long, long time ago/When you lost your way’. Party on, Thomas.
Lead-single -1901′ has the potential to be the band’s biggest hit since -Too Young’, while at the centre of the album lies -Love Like A Sunset Part I’ and -Love Like A Sunset Part II’ – largely instrumental companion pieces that gloriously fuse everything from house music to krautrock. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is the quartet’s most complete work to date and while mainland Europe has embraced Phoenix far more than Ireland has for many years, that could well be about to change.