phoenixwolfgang amadeus phoenix
  • TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2009

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The first words that come to mind with a title like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix might be something like haughty, lofty, or far-fetched; after all, why would a pop rock band from Paris channel the forefather of Austrian classicism? Why not March To The Phoenix, channeling great French composer Hector Berlioz? Maybe it's because they sing in English, or write songs worthy of the popularity comparison to Mozart, or maybe they just don't give a damn. Regardless of allusion musing, Phoenix really nailed a record here, and audiophiles would do well to pay close attention as they rise from the ashes of albums past and burst into mainstream glory. If Phoenix were in fact the white wig wearing note smith of the eighteenth century, this might very well be their 40th Symphony.

The actual words that come to mind after WAP are dance-y, catchy, and cohesive. Phoenix manages to not only craft a killer single in "1901," but emulate the subtle nuances that make it so sticky over and over, track after track. Take "Lisztomania," or ender "Armistice," or anything in between, even the slow stuff; they all have this unnamed quality in common. A hook here or a well-placed drum drop could seem formulaic but Phoenix manages to make it sound fresh, and demonstrate an impressive, but difficult to understand command of the English language (who can decipher anything that Jack White or Julian Casablancas says on first listen?). Slurring is part of being a rockstar. Part of the success here: Thomas Mars creates a really distinct voice in his mash-up falsetto stylizing. Each song is tied together by similar instrumental lineups as well as Mars delivery of "ooos" and "ahhs," all melting together.

The best part about WAP is the potential for crossover; not only "1901" getting club play, but its serious mainstream pop momentum here in America. And an achievement like this is great for a band who, like many foreign acts who choose to sing in English, often get the cold shoulder from their own domestic radio outlets. It's a calculated risk singing in English, but finally, after consistently catchy records, and sounding great on SNL (a feat in itself, mind you) they are getting the attention they deserve.

Breaking from the hits, seven minute two-part opus "Love Like A Sunset" splits the record. It should have been one track (and it was originally, I believe), because it's an electro-compositional masterpiece worthy of the album's namesake. It's split between the instrumental layering of "I" and the vocal section of "II," words which seems perfectly timed after the swooping bleeps of guitars and synths, a macrocosm that seems to extrapolate the records impeccable balance. And leave it to Frenchmen to think of analogies that are so simple, yet so beautiful. - joe puglisi

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