Phoenix entered the Japanese Top Ten, but its first few minutes make one wonder why, because the album opens up with some sturdy hardcore that's not exactly prime charting material. However, things clear up pretty fast, and the hardcore thing turns out to be a harmless mimicry for what is actually an emo-punk album. Sounding like Fall Out Boy became a safe ticket to success around 2008, but the downside is that the shtick began wearing thin fast -- which explains the non-conventional intro, as Zebrahead seem to be trying to make up for lack of originality on Phoenix with versatility. The backbone of the album is still formed by simple riffs played with punk speed, their energy serving as a counterbalance to the melodies that are so sensitive they border on whiny. However, the guitars are often genuinely heavy, reminding of Taking Back Sunday, and the punk vibe occasionally becomes too brutal to count as melodic. But only occasionally: melody is still a byword for Phoenix, which clearly longs for pop appeal, for all its speed and quasi-metal elements. There are a couple of more daring detours, too, such as the reggae-tinged "Mike Dexter," or "The Juggernauts," which plunders the vaults of arena rock of U2 by way of Angels & Airwaves (making it a double plunder). All in all, the genre-hopping is handled pretty well, and the album never becomes a disparate jumble of influences, but the emo-rock used as glue, while energetic and not overly sentimental, isn't exactly full of hooks, which probably explains why this album, in the end, only enjoyed moderate chart success.
AllMusic Review by Alexey Eremenko
Track Listing - Disc 1