Phoenix - Alpha Zulu Music Album Reviews

Phoenix - Alpha Zulu Music Album Reviews
The French indie rock stalwarts’ fun and fizzy seventh album rejuvenates a proven formula while protecting its true feelings behind glass.

How does a band as definitively springy as Phoenix find inspiration? When the French quartet released their debut more than 20 years ago, their meticulous production and candy-sweet hooks seemed dually primed for festival stages and dimly lit cocktail bars. Before the breakout success of 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Phoenix were that band your indie-head friend said should be huge, man—and when they got huge, headlining Coachella and lending their hit “1901” to a Cadillac commercial, your friend still rode for them. Phoenix hasn’t had to risk artistic integrity for mainstream appeal or reinvent their style to remain relevant—their ebullient, effortless pop-rock is enduringly of-the-moment, sophisticated enough to appease purists and safe enough to appear in a lingerie advertisement.

Six albums and a couple decades in, though, it’s fair to wonder if Phoenix’s trusted formula can spark the flame it once did. While 2017’s Ti Amo featured all their familiar flourishes—buzzy bass, bubblegum synth, pleasure-packed choruses—the record felt stale, stuffed with empty calories. How many more times could Thomas Mars chant a sing-along hook that really resonated, or noodle a riff that hit like the ones on Wolfgang? On the band’s seventh studio album, Alpha Zulu, Phoenix’s euphoric synth rock sounds as good as it ever has, the songs gushing with renewed enthusiasm and glittery production. They occasionally color outside the lines of their standard style, but mostly they stick to the script—they know what works, so why change now? Though emotionally distant and structurally predictable, Alpha Zulu’s a fun, fizzy record that’ll undoubtedly find a home on strobe-lit dancefloors across the world.

Writing and recording amid COVID-19 lockdowns, Phoenix didn’t want Alpha Zulu to be defined as their pandemic album. Driven by “the possibility of playing [the album] live someday,” they made songs destined for jam-packed crowds and expensive light shows, work that will slot seamlessly into their existing setlist of hits. No new song is likely to inspire more fervor on the road than the Ezra Koenig-assisted “Tonight,” the band’s best song since Wolfgang. Coursing with punchy percussion and bright, shuddering guitars, “Tonight” evokes a bygone era when Vampire Weekend and Phoenix were at the forefront of a new wave of innovative, idiosyncratic guitar pop; Mars and Koenig sound like a pair of cool dads reliving their glory days. The fun continues on the club-ready “All Eyes on Me,” where Mars delivers one of the album’s most memorable hooks over muscular bass, pulsing synths, EDM risers, and tinkly harpsichord. Even when the writing contains traces of melancholy, Alpha Zulu is nothing if not a good time.

As is typical for a Phoenix record, the lyrics are tertiary to the sticky melodies and lustrous production. It’s not that the writing is vapid; Mars has always been more of a mood generator than a storyteller, conveying tension and emotion through small, cryptic details and fluttery vocal cadences. Alpha Zulu has no discernible raison d’être, just glimmers of vulnerability that burst into view when you least expect them. Take “Artefact,” where Mars croons an incisive line about marital inertia: “I’m looking for an artifact/A piece of me that’s still intact…What part of me can still attract you?” If you squint hard enough, Alpha Zulu seems to be about reestablishing connection in a post-lockdown world, whether that be connection with ourselves, our partners, or the strangers we scream with at concerts. Yet I found myself craving more songs like “Artefact,” moments where Phoenix wed their precise songcraft with more legible meaning. Otherwise, the deluge of chanting hooks—like the ones on the title track or “The Only One”—start to deflate into gibberish.

Phoenix recorded much of Alpha Zulu at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a wing of the Louvre and a place whose “eerie and a little bit dystopian” energy invigorated the group’s creative process, according to Mars. In interviews, the band recalls the strangeness of performing beside medieval paintings and Napoleon’s throne. And after a while, the songs on Alpha Zulu begin to mimic the experience of observing objects in a museum—you can admire all you want, but please don’t touch. Just look at the album centerpiece “Winter Solstice”: Over a four-on-the-floor kick and neon-sheathed synths, Mars sings about finding it “hard to connect” with others amid limitless technological distractions. The sugary downtempo drops offer a brief respite from Mars’ gloomy demeanor, but the sentiment feels mostly gestural. When the song ends, the worries fade and we’re welcomed into another sun-streaked gallery, nodding and muttering “wow” while suppressing a yawn.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Phoenix - Alpha Zulu Music Album Reviews Phoenix - Alpha Zulu Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 17, 2022 Rating: 5


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