Phoenix It's Never Been Like That

Phoenix It's Never Been Like That
Parisian band Phoenix should gladly toast a sake to director Sofia Coppola for digging up "Too Young” from their then, three-year old debut, United for her 2003 film Lost in Translation. That move won the band acclaim for a sound that provided a challenge for reviewers in defining the band’s studio-wizardry and melodic mix of house, rock, pop, punk and country sung in English — something unlike anything else music from France was supposed to sound like. Touring 2004’s Alphabetical, the band employed a guitar-driven rock sound for their live show, and are capitalising on this momentum with It’s Never Been Like That. Opener "Napoleon Says” is an immediate call to the dance floor with its tight, ringing guitars, foot-tapping drum beats, and catchy sing-along lyrics that have always characterised a great Phoenix song. This power pop formula (akin to the clean guitars of Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet) is adhered to throughout the album, and although the song structures — jangling guitar verses turned up for "instantly stuck in your head” choruses with some neat keyboard effects — are predictable, the band have never sounded more confident. Refusing to fall prey to the easy listening vibe they gained a reputation for with their previous albums, this is a convincing new chapter from the best French band who aren’t.

Did you consciously explore a rawer sound this time around as opposed to your previous, more-produced efforts? Vocalist Thomas Mars: We felt that we didn’t need any extra production or a lot of layers. For instance on Alphabetical, every time we would record something, we would try it again. We felt that we were improving technically or that the song was improving. With this record, every time we would record and do another take, we would lose something. So with the new songs, we used mostly the first take and it is really the songs that decided the album would sound very rough and the arrangements would be very basic.

Why did you choose to record in Berlin at a former communist state radio-broadcasting centre? We went there more for the fact that it would give us isolation and it would only be the four of us in an environment that is everything but a professional studio. There are no gold records on the wall and no Playstations, which we wanted to avoid.

All of your songs contain very strong melodies. When composing a song, do you come up with the melody first? It’s still a mystery to us to be honest and we’d like to keep it that way because I think once we understand how it works, we’ll be poisoned. (Arts & Crafts)