REVIEW: Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Zach Hart Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Let me be honest here. I didn’t catch on with Phoenix until 2003. During said year I saw Lost in Translation and fell in love with every aspect of the movie, including the soundtrack. I was familiar with some of the bands but purchased the soundtrack mostly because I wanted to hear Bill Murray’s lounge version of Roxy Music’s “More Than This”. Hidden inside all the shoegaze and deliberate tracks was one real gem: “Too Young” by Phoenix. Even though United came out in 2000 I was just now licking my lips to this amazingly crafted piece of indie pop/rock music.
It is with that sentiment in mind that Phoenix brings us their fourth studio effort Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix—one of the year’s best pop records so far. But more on that later.
I would rather tackle the albums “faults” first before anything. And I don’t mean faults as in shoddy production or particularly terrible songs because this album legitimately doesn’t have any of these glaring errors. One thing you might find wrong here is a lack of change. When a great band keeps coming out with music you can’t help but line songs and albums next to each other to see how they compare. When it comes to Phoenix, this isn’t really necessary. They are a band who embrace their sound and polish it to the point of perfection. You can fault them for not “changing it up” but is that what you really want of a band you already like? (Personally, I don’t care what the hell they do, as long as it sounds good.) If you want me to be honest, that’s all I’ve really got on the so-called “bad” side. I feel really trying to delve into it more would just be gibberish. So…
How about “Lisztomania”? Talk about a hell of an opener. Seriously. The track has been floating around for awhile and has been kicking my ass the whole time. Songs like this are what Phoenix does best. Hearing it swirl around in my ears just fills my old soul with a vibrant shot of youth.
For some reason that I will never understand it is almost impossible for good bands to actually get some recognition. I mean look at the Grammys. What a sham. I know it. You know it. A lot of people don’t know it. When I saw Phoenix on Saturday Night Live I was quite happy because the band was getting some really good exposure. Playing “Lisztomania”, “1901”, and even “Too Young” (though it was cut short by credits) you really got a feel for what the band wants you to hear. The live versions were almost identical to the album ones and it seemed like a great band were finally getting their place in the sun.
With Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix the band has managed to capture what most would call radio-friendly pop. In the end I feel that the band tries to craft songs that everyone can listen to and enjoy, and it succeeds completely. Even with some of their more ballad like songs “Fences” and “Coundown” the hooks and rhythms really romanticize the overall feel of the album. One part of the album I want to pay special attention to is the song duo “Love like a Sunset” (Parts 1 & 2). The first track is a near six minute sort of synth art-rock piece. Honestly, it’s kind of weird. I scratched my head at first wondering what was going on since it doesn’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the album. Regardless of its place in the whole nature of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix it does kind of show what the band can do. So, in a way that addresses the whole “what else could they do if they wanted to do it” question. Then, again, out of nowhere, we get a short two minute little song that actual provides one of the most beautiful sounds on the album. It is a completely stripped sounding song compared to everything else on the album but it really works.
You know, the whole album can be described as something that just works. Let me be honest with you for a moment; when I first was writing out my review of this album I was going to give it an 8.0 just a flat score, no in between because Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a solid album. And, as I do before I write my reviews, I listened to the album again. The thing is, the first time I got this album a while ago I listened to it three times in a day because it was that much of a joy. You have thirty six minutes of pure pop/rock bliss. It was on that final listen (and while writing at this moment in time) that I feel confident that this is a 9 out of 10 album. Phoenix is nearing their ten year mark so it makes sense that they know what they are about. So queue this baby up. The opening track with bite into you and won’t let you go. Not like that matters, anyway because even after the last track “Armistice” is over you are going to want to experience the whole thing over again.