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Phoenix - Alpha Zulu (Album Review)

Friday, 04 November 2022 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Shervin Lainez

Phoenix’s music has always displayed a sprightly elegance. A clean-cut, immaculately capable group, they have from the outset had their own unique take on indie-rock, embracing pop and electronics without falling into electroclash. Slowly, they became as synonymous with French alternative music as Daft Punk were with French house.

It would appear that the years have been kind to Phoenix. There is an exuberance to their new record ‘Alpha Zulu’, their seventh over a career spanning 22 years, which is usually reserved for bands far earlier in their journey. 

The title track is a riotous number that trails through dirty dancefloors, and finds the band holding their own with top 10 botherers in terms of sheer pop hooks. To add to their time-defying schtick, Thomas Mars’ voice has lost none of its late aughts power and clarity. 

It works in perfect tandem with Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig on Tonight, and the two trade lines over jaunty guitars and incessant hi-hat builds. The car chase vibe of After Midnight, complete with a breathless bassline, also casts the band in a youthful neon glow.

Phoenix, like the rest of the world, were not left unaffected by the pandemic. Plans for ‘Alpha Zulu’ had to be put on hold as they kept themselves and each other protected, only reconvening when it was safe to do so. For four friends who write almost exclusively as a band, there is a palpable energy to the record born from the excitement of their reunion. Relying on first takes where possible to retain that urgency, ‘Alpha Zulu’ finds Phoenix connecting on a more personal level than ever before. 

Comparisons to the Strokes are nothing new, but on one of the record’s highlights Artefact, they beat the New Yorkers at their own game. Shuddering guitars, and a wistful synth-laced chorus may initially sound like the streets of 2001 Manhattan, but Phoenix have appropriated it for Paris in 2022. In fact, given the direction the Strokes have moved in recent times, you could argue that the roles have now reversed in where inspiration is being sought.

Closing the album, Identical is a five minute sun-bleached excursion into the heart of the band; a gorgeous reminder of how, with subtle drum snaps, synth swells and a lingering melody, the quartet can build something truly beautiful. 

Listening to ‘Alpha Zulu’, you could be forgiven for forgetting the horrors of the last few years had even occurred. Despite Phoenix’s personal challenges they have returned untainted. Any encroaching darkness has been kept at bay from their music and it is a blessing. After all, art doesn't have to be a mirror to the world, it can be a telescope pointed at the stars. 

Phoenix Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed November 16 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

Compare & Buy Phoenix Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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