United

United

by Phoenix
     
 

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The debut album by the French trio Phoenix includes guest spots from members of Daft Punk and Cassius, but it doesn't feature the twitchy funk and house thump we've come to expect from Gallic groovemongers. United is a smooth collection of tightly composed songcraft that rearranges '80s new wave,

Overview

The debut album by the French trio Phoenix includes guest spots from members of Daft Punk and Cassius, but it doesn't feature the twitchy funk and house thump we've come to expect from Gallic groovemongers. United is a smooth collection of tightly composed songcraft that rearranges '80s new wave, Steely Dan's slick disco-jazz, and L.A. hair metal into a quizzical and clever collage. With an ingratiating dry charm, singer Thomas Mars crisply enunciates his way through wistful urban escapism ("Summer Days"), lonely ballads ("Hollywood"), and smirking come-ons ("On Fire"). But the real joy is listening to Phoenix deploy a dazzling array of pop signifiers -- weepy pedal steel, cheesy '80s synths, soaring strings, punk guitar roar, and many more -- into their finger-snapping arrangements. It all comes to a peak during "Funky Squaredance," a three-part epic that begins like a classic Nashville number (sung from the perspective of a dead corpse), settles into a Beck-ian '80s electro-workout, and finishes with Scorpions-style pyrotechnics. Pass the fromage.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Jason Birchmeier
On their debut album for Astralwerks/Source, Phoenix applies a slick electronica aesthetic to traditional pop
ock songwriting, resulting in a quite adventurous album capable of re-organizing perceptions about 1980s-style verse-chorus-verse guitar pop. Of course, the fact that the group members come from France gives them the necessary perspective on commercial American pop
ock from the past. With this perspective, they bring fresh life to something that grew stale fast, primarily with their textural approach to songwriting. For instance, the catchy vocal hook from "Too Young" seems far too melodic for its own good, mostly from the pristine production that brings an uncanny gleam to Thomas Mars' already warm voice. Furthermore, one can pick pretty much any instrument in any given song and appreciate the way the sounds come alive in ways that few pop
ock songs are capable of: the percussion gently rattles far too crisply, the bass guitar sounds more like a house bassline than an actual guitar riff, and the subtle guitar sounds seem just too little like the oft-stale sounds that have been associated with guitars over the years. In sum, the album sounds great, but the allure goes deeper than just production. The band understands how to write catchy songs that manage to retain an innocent aura of simplicity and accessibility without coming off contrived. To just think of United as an album of slick pop
ock postmodernism would be cheapening; think of the album as an uncanny yet earnest showcase of what makes pop
ock pop without the gaudy trendiness that now makes the 1980s seem so distasteful.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/19/2000
Label:
Parlophone (Wea)
UPC:
0724384885328
catalogNumber:
488533
Rank:
111514

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