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Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That

Phoenix, It's Never Been Like That

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING finally attracted the acclaim they deserved with 2004’s Alphabetical, French folk-inspired, indie-poppers Phoenix return with the equally impressive It’s Never Been Like That.

But rather than sticking to the same formula that delivered hits such as Run, Run, Run, the band have – by their own admission – started over.

The result is an album that’s deliberately sunnier, stronger, more coherent and alive – as exemplified by current single, Long Distance Call, a shimmering piece of indie-pop perfection that seems tailor-made with the warmer weather in mind.

Indeed, It’s Never Been Like That was conceived with a live mentality. As a result, it strips away the epic soundscaping that was rife throughout Alphabetical, or the eclectic approach they adopted for United in favour of a more vigorous, straight-forward approach.

This is highlighted in the siren-like guitar riff that marks the start of the album on Napolean Says – a towering anthem that is joyously upbeat, energetic and bold.

The guitar riffs throughout the remainder of the track are fast, fierce and striking, while Thomas Mars vocals aspire to skyscraping greatness during the chorus.

The band’s French roots (they hail from Versailles) are evident in some of the Euro-beats but on the whole this could be the work of an English indie band with their eye on combining the raw energy of Razorlight or The Kooks with the psychedelia of The Beatles.

Consolation Prizes is a boisterous performer, packed with crisp melodies and lively guitar riffs, as well as a nicely layered chorus (think The Kooks of Naive), while Rally is constructed around the sort of acoustic guitar melodies that made Blur’s Coffee & TV such an enduring favourite.

Then comes the single, Long Distance Call, which effortlessly drops a stop-start verse that’s punctuated by the sort of low-key but effective keyboard motifs that Phoenix are renowned for. The chorus is a defiant plea for their intention of starting over which, according to Mars, was wholly the intention of the new album.

Further highlights include the more slow-building Lost And Found, which sort of tumbles into its shambolic chorus, and final track, Second To None, an edgy finale that succeeds in exuding the jump-around zeal the band were seeking.

Given that it was conceived with live shows in mind, it’s fair to say the tracks on this album should help to create a suitably upbeat feel when they come to perform it.

It’s Never Been Like That is another success story for Phoenix. Long may their creative ambition continue.

Read our review of Alphabetical

Track listing:

  1. Napoleon Says
  2. Consolation Prizes
  3. Rally
  4. Long Distance Call
  5. One Time Too Many
  6. Lost And Found
  7. Courtesy Laughs
  8. North
  9. Sometimes In The Fall
  10. Second To None