Sunday, March 2, 2008

It's Never Been Like That - Phoenix (RIPPED OFF '07)

It’s Never Been Like That

Arts & Crafts Records.

SCQ Rating: 78%

Something I purchased in January of 07, I immediately understood why their third album was featured in several year-end lists of 2006. I recall sitting on my bed, beginning to memorize lyrics and melodies as I played the record repeatedly, and being blown away that I was so comfortable and familiar with an album I had only owned for several hours.

I can’t recall an album latching itself onto anyone who casually hears it like It’s Never Been Like That since Weezer’s Blue Album. It’s quirkiness and brevity matched with such power-pop sensibilities comes off nearly as flawlessly. Unlike that seminal 1994 release, however, I cannot vouch for any Phoenix song to have the lasting impact as any given song off that self-titled effort. While ‘Long Distance Call’ or ‘Courtesy Laughs’ play well blaring from your car stereo or any social gathering with friends, it won’t be chosen when you’re on your own, opting for a night alone. Despite the often sunny disposition of Weezer’s debut effort, there was considerable depth in the band’s songwriting and River Cuomo’s lyrics which made it ideal for both drunken celebration and worthless self-pity.

So why make a comparison between Phoenix and Weezer, back when Weezer mattered? For two reasons: 1) I’d wager this band is capable of writing an album superior to this one; as fun as INBLT but deeper in mood and complexity, and 2) because INBLT lacks that dimension that divides flippantly off-the-cuff indie records from classics. The fact that this record requires a particular listening environment is what keeps it from greatness.

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