Realigned with Philippe Zdar, the half of Cassius who mixed United, Phoenix make adjustments on the polarizing characteristics of their second and third albums -- the pokey and occasionally listless Alphabetical, the jagged and tune-deficient It's Never Been Like That -- with some of the most direct and enjoyable songs they've made to date. The two opening songs, the bopping "Lisztomania" and the buzzing "1901," are so immediate and prone to habitual play that the remainder of the album is bound to be neglected. There is plenty to like beyond that point, including "Lasso," which niftily alternates between a tangled rhythm and tight-spiral riffing, and the labyrinthine "Pt. 1" of "Love Like a Sunset," which serves the same purpose as the extended instrumental passages on Roxy Music's Avalon, at least until its rousing conclusion and shift into "Pt. 2." Beyond containing the band's best, most efficient songwriting, the album also stands apart from the first three studio albums by projecting a cool punch that is unforced. Vocalist Thomas Mars, more bright-eyed and youthful than ever, also sounds more a part of these songs, rather than coming across as a protruding element that clashes against the instruments. Maybe they've just hit their stride.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman