“Do they sing classical music” my doctor asked me after inquiring about the CD I was holding in my hand. “Do they sing in French?”
“No and No” I answered, before handing over my Phoenix CD for him to borrow. “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” Phoenix’s newest album gives a nod to music’s classical past. Although the band is on their fourth album, ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ is by far their most successful. Hailing from Versailles, France and fronted by lead singer Thomas Mars (who shares a baby with Hollywood royalty Sofia Coppola) Phoenix have given mainstream music a run for their money.
While still unknown to many in the United States, Phoenix managed to walk away from the latest Grammy’s with a statue for best alternative album, and their first single off the album, ‘1901’ hit number 1 in the alternative charts in the United States. Phoenix have been music festival staples in both the 2009 and 2010 season, playing at Coachella and headlining both Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo.
I first saw Phoenix at Bonnaroo in 2009, right after ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ was released. I heard of them through a friend back in the United Kingdom and decided to check them out while on my Bonnaroo excursion. What I got was one of my best music festival experiences. Speaking with heavy French accents, Phoenix exuberate energy that emanates from lead singer Mars. Their music is fairly mellow, but their live shows do not turn into jam band sessions. They can put on a show, sans any special effects, and entertain with just their instruments.
Of course, when Phoenix came to London’s O2 Brixton Academy, I got my ticket right away. My view was better this time and my experience was just as good. Energy, again, was the key of the night, and although during this show they treated their audience to light effects, the natural energy of Mars and the rest of the group were not inhibited.
Phoenix’s sound is reminiscent of the Strokes, with a less focus on catchy anthems and more on pristine songwriting. Phoenix is one of the last great bands that really care about what goes into writing a song; Mars’ passion for his music is clear. Although the words can be hard to understand, anyone who hears one of Phoenix’s three singles, ‘1901’, ‘Liztomania’, and Lasso, will surely be trying to sing-along. The songs are catchy without relenting their artistic quality. ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’ definitely deserved that Grammy and is a beacon of hope in a rather depressing industry.
Phoenix will be playing at the Pageant in University City, MO on Monday August 9th with Two Door Cinema Club. Tickets can be bought here.