CD Review: Phoenix — Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenixwolfgangamadeusphoenix Phoenix
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Glass Note Records

By Eileen Tilson

When most people visit Paris, they are overwhelmed
by how incredibly beautiful and luminescent the “City of Lights” is; the city
literally glows, and at night can be a spectacular sight. Ironically, most of
these tourists do not realize that underneath Paris lies an entire city of
darkness. The Catacombs of Paris house the bones of over six million Parisians,
creating a labyrinth of skulls in these old underground quarries. The catacombs
are a burial site, illegal party spot, graffiti museum, and unusual respite from
the city rolled into one. Not many people realize the great antithesis that is
Paris: on the surface bright and romantic, and deep down cryptic and
layered. 

Parisian four-piece Phoenix captures this
dichotomy in their latest album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. This is the fourth
album for the Frenchmen, and is their most creatively complex release yet.
Rumor has it that music industry legend Daniel Glass heard the band, and the
next morning hopped on a plane to Paris, refusing to leave until they signed
with him on Glass Note Records. The record is fast and immediate, making you feel
like you are in a secret underground Parisian all night dance party that you
never want to leave.

Frontman Thomas Mars immediately confronts the
dueling voices on his shoulders with “Lisztomania,” singing in his sometimes
indecipherable voice, "So sentimental; not sentimental, no!/Romantic; not
disgusting yet.” The title of the song termed for the craze brought by Franz
Liszt, the 19th century Hungarian pianist and composer known for his extravagant
playing style – hysterical women literally fought over his handkerchiefs at
concerts more than a century before The Beatles. This is Phoenix again cleverly
playing on opposing forces, whereas Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music represented
all things respectable, Liszt’s playing was said to raise moods to a mystical
ecstasy.

The album’s single “1901” is a synth-washed ode
about falling in love (Mars’ partner is Sofia Coppola), and solidifies them as a
“should be bigger than they are” band. “Fences” is a glittery seductive disco
that cascades into the climatic instrumental interlude, “Love Like a Sunset Part
I & II.” This album is pristine. The music is shimmery and light, yet
interesting and complex. Where bands like The Strokes and The Dandy Warhols have
failed, Phoenix focuses its sound into a finely tuned, organized collections of
distorted poetry, ready to be added to the artistic, intelligent  rock jukebox.

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