Could anyone plausibly dislike this record? One might whine that France’s Phoenix is coasting on a wave of 80′s revivalism or that the production is too glossy, but these objections buckle within the first listen of the joyfully dynamic Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
This is a maddeningly likeable record, as evidenced by the endless acclaim of buyers and critics alike. From “Lisztomania,” maybe the most immediate opener since Boxer’s “Fake Empire,” through the two-part climb of “Love Like A Sunset,” Side A is surprisingly diverse. Each song glows in neon, painted in a 1980s sound palette (think tense, muted guitars and expensive synths). Thomas Mars’ lovely melodies are double-tracked and the rhythms are always danceable. Subtle, but effective parameters.
The cocky title, the singer’s romance with Sofia Coppola, the name checks of Grizzly Bear and Steve Reich – all are hallmarks of an outfit that wears its affluent intellectuality on its sleeve. But, honestly, it’s not as contrived as it sounds. The most classical quality of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is its expert use of dynamics, its obsession with tension and release (“1901” and “Rome,” especially). It’s perfect pop, dressed up and having fun with a classical motif, an ambition at which Coldplay continues to fail.
Phoenix was always the least arresting of their Versailles brethren (fellow synth abusers Daft Punk and Air), but after 10 years, the quartet has outshined them all, producing the most complex and realized work of their careers. Who’s sparkling now?