Review Summary: Oh, how we wish we were French!
Phoenix are a French alt-indie band. Phoenix are not Air. Phoenix are not Daft Punk. They're way cooler.
Thomas Mars (vocals)
Deck D'Arcy (bass)
Laurent Brancowitz (guitars)
Christian Mazzalai (drums)
Given their success with their single Too Young (featured on Shallow Hal and Lost In Translation) and also subsequently the success of the 'other' big French indie act, the pressure on Phoenix to deliver the goods with INBLT was high. The record was apparently recorded by the Versailles foursome at a studio in East Germany. The distance from home has, fortunately for them, paid off.
Mars is careful. The album's not loud. It doesn't beg or shout for your attention. It's brilliant spring listening at its best. The melodies are contemporary and not though it's obvious that Phoenix has tried to loosen up, they're still as intricate as ever. The levels are just right, and there's absolutely not a single wasted note, chord or lyric. It's this amazing economy with music that has Phoenix at its very best. You can just picture them playing for the lazy, beach boy hipsters on a cool, sunny afternoon at the beach.
The pictures are peachy, and it has to do, in part with the fact that Phoenix are a 'happy' band. Even on the seemingly melancholic One Time Too Many where Mars talks about difficult love, they're still bouncing around on a floaty bubble of precocious pop. There's no striking hooks, riffs or anthemic choruses, but enough rhythm, meaning and simplicity to make up for any lack of excitement.
Long Distance Call, the first single of the LP, is a Being John Malkovich song that carries it's weight through the album, but thankfully, is not obviously repetitive. It's the little things that Phoenix has, expectedly, got right. Like the tremolo on the chorus of the single that just takes it one step above whatever it would've been like had it not been there at all. Then there's the thumping bass on Courtesy Laughs that is wonderfully complemented with the rhythm. It's hard to find an error on this record apart from the fact that at about 40 minutes with just 10 tracks, it's too short.
"You know your French well" says Mars on the album opener Napolean Says, complementing your choice on picking up a good record, when in fact, you should complement him on making it.