Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
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Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix EP
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2009 album from the French Electro-Rockers. Born out of restlessness and a steady hunt for inspiration, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a career-defining album filled with the band's signature melding of synthetics and organics, sharp, danceable rhythms, infectious choruses with a considerable dose of aural panache and candy-colored pop sensibilities.
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The album is fairly upbeat, heavy on the electronica/synthesized beats, and eminently dance-able. The whole album clocks in at under 40 minutes, which is almost a nice throwback to the days of the original LP's. And I keep using the term "album," because this really does play like an album--meant to be listened to from beginning to end, which again is almost throwback concept in today's landscape of pervasive singles downloading.
If you are not familiar with Phoenix outside of their hit "1901," don't stress. If you like(d) "1901" you will almost assuredly like this album. If you didn't, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix may not be for you, but it is such a good effort that you might do yourself a favor by giving it a listen anyways, just to see if you don't change your mind.
My first impression was that the CD reminded me of the "New Wave" era of the late 70s and early 80s. That's fine with me as I loved New Wave music. It was simple, basic and highly danceable, as is the Phoenix album. As I listened through the album I felt it was very reminiscent of The Cars in many different ways. Again, that's OK, I greatly enjoyed Cars music. The vocals sounded different, but the background and arrangements definitely reminded me of The Cars, plus any number of other New Wave bands. The music is melodic, simple, highly repetitious and danceable, all favorable characteristics in my opinion. I can listen and listen without getting tired.
This is an excellent album. Real fine! It sounds old and new at the same time. Born-Again New Wave, I'd call it. If you like New Wave, you should enjoy it very much.
This is ultimately repetitive.
That isn't to say that it isn't a solid album, but after a while the songs seem to run into one another and become so familiar they are hard to differentiate. The hooks, the beats, even the lyrical delivery seems to recall the song that came before it. I like every song, but that's probably because every song kind of sounds the same.
`1901', `Rome' and the brilliant `Armistice' fair the finest on the album, as far as popping out as different. `1901' is one of those songs that is instantly recognizable, instantly iconic and just instantly lovable. I can't see this growing tired any time soon. `Armistice' sums up everything that this album stands for artistically and marks the end of this album with a bold and beautiful exclamation point. `Rome' is pulled back a bit from the pack, and I like that. It has a different feel without losing the bands signature styling.
`Love Like a Sunset' is nicely crafted in both it's parts. I love the idea of keeping `Part One' strictly instrumental (a nicely constructed instrumental at that) and then keeping `Part Two' short and to the point, focusing on the lyrics that never made it one `Part One'. Together they make a nice statement (and remarkably, this gimmick doesn't feel like a gimmick).
When listening to the remix album, two of my favorite tracks were the remixes of `Lasso' and `Lisztomania' (in particular, the Alex Metric Remix of `Lisztomania'). I like the tracks here, but they lack the pop and sizzle they posses on the remix album. They are good songs, but they easily melt into the stewing pot of familiarity, failing to distinguish themselves as richly as I expected them to. `Girlfriend' and `Countdown' (`Countdown' is the only track not to appear on the remix album) are decent yet uninspiring and probably collectively represent my least favorite tracks on the album.
Funny, because my last favorite remixed song was `Fences' (there is WAY TOO MUCH `Fences' on the remix album) but I rather like the track here. It has grown on me. I still find it feels slightly corny, but that corniness kind of sets it apart and gives it a unique feel.
In the end I recommend the album, because the Europop, synthesized, geek-sheik fun here is just too much to ignore (or avoid) but what technically should have garnered a 5-star rating from me is suffering from a subtracted star due to the repetitive nature of their album. I love their style, but they should have tried a little harder to step out of their comfort zone and give us something that felt a little more complete.