Phoenix - United
What the hell was I and everyone else doing in the year 2000? How did it take Phoenix six years to release an album that made a few people other than the internet's nerdiest pop fans and people who bought the Shallow Hal original soundtrack album listen up? And then three more years for them to get the kind of high profile recognition as "one of the great pop/rock acts of our time" that they deserved from the very start? I will be examining their career trajectory via a rigorous five day long seminar taking place on this very blog. It will consist of half assed reviews of the band's catalog and will probably be interrupted by unrelated reviews.
Alright, United was their debut album. The common consensus seems to be that the timeless pop classics "Too Young" and "If I Ever Feel Better" are all that's really anchoring down this messy album of just kind of okay half finished jams. Now, this is the sort of conventional wisdom that I just cannot fully get behind. Sure, the thing feels more like a mixtape than a classic pop full length. 11 tracks and three of them are instrumentals, with two of those being under two minutes long and serving as nothing more than bookends. What's left over are two brilliant singles, a nine minute funky squaredance number that will have you sweatin' up a storm ("Funky Squaredance"), and four songs that sound a bit slighter than what this band is truly capable of. But let me tell you something here... those songs are really damn good. "On Fire" had eternally burrowed its way into my consciousness after only a few listens and now I find myself lounging around my house and inexplicably singing its breezy yet massive fucking hook and enjoying myself immensely. If it sounds like b-side backwash, it's the backwash of pop music kings. Not to mention the lovely ballad "Honeymoon" and the possibly proto Strokes rock drive of "Party Time" (I'm reaching here, I know.) And who can deny the delightfulness of the melody on "Summer Days."
And there you have it. The whole album is good. Much like Paul McCartney & Wings' Wild Life LP, even though there's a puzzling ratio of bullshit filler to actual songs, the whole thing works as an under 40 minute pop full length because the melodicism is always A+. And when your "filler" tracks include the laidback grooves of "Embuscade" with its totally bitchin' sax solo... well, that's hardly something to complain about. Just what was the deal with Europeans back then and their knack for cranking out blissfully well crafted synth laden pop for faggots? Did these guys and Zoot Woman and Daft Punk all just have a more solid grasp on the classixx? Had poptimism simply not flourished yet? Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oates, Wings, New Order, Prince, Todd Rundgren... how could any American live with themselves without acknowledging the work of these masters? Plenty must have, I guess. God bless Phoenix!
Rating: A- listening experience. Even though the cover looks like one of those hair metal compilations you see advertised on TV, I'm just always in the mood for this recording.
Download Link: "My Girls"