. .0... Excellent .99. Recommended .99 Good .9 Flawed 9 Poor


99 Utopia


100 River bugging

Rear View

1 12 Craig Hill, John Fardell


96 Full Spectrum Warrior


97 American Film Theatre


98 The Long Firm, flout’n’About


90 Jasper Fforde, Johnny Cash


92 Asterlx, Spiderbflan

a Begeria...


POP PHOENIX Alphabetical (Source) .0000

The story goes that it’s Sinatra’s world, we just live in it. Truth be told, it’s been a while since ol’ Blue Eyes ruled the roost and anyway, it sounds like it would be

. 1 much more fun to inhabit the - ‘1 -1111‘——”—— world of Phoenix. Four dapper French twentysomethings who make seemingly effortless, effusive pop which simmers but never simpers, rocks but never struts, and manages to be shimmery but not showy. Alphabetical is a magical work and, like its predecessor, 1999’s Untitled, remains wilfully out of step with fashion or fad. The listening is easy, but this is much more than just easy listening.

This record could have so easily have been really, really terrible. Taking the more genteel route down the rock path of enlightenment, it could well have ended up a bucket of stodgy, sonic wallpaper paste - trying to be smooth but ending up charmless and pretentioust yucky. But Phoenix have kept their cool and made a slick, confident and refreshingly concise record - a real sprint at just under 38 minutes - and given us one of the albums of the year.

Attempts to harness the charms of the soft rock of the 705 and 803 have thus far ended in red-faced humiliation. Even Jacques Lu Cont (actually a fake Frenchman in this case, he was from Reading) and Les Rythmes Digitales with their Howard Jones-loving escapades were patchy but Phoenix steadfastly deny being retroists, telling The List that any influence from the 70s is ‘purely subconscious’.

Unlike acts like the Scissor Sisters who employ high camp

to propel their kitsch pop smart bombs, and do so to ii‘fiiéi’lllifl'fii; £2353.““$4723.33:1:33:28 °‘ MAKE AND 'T 5°"an “K5 'T- SUCH I Hgtel California or Steely Daszauchg. That is meangas a

compliment, by the way.

Alphabetical took four years to make and it sounds like it. perfect. A sweet, swinging hip hop shuffle underpins some 3 Such precision doesn’t come quickly and each song sounds ringing acoustic guitar and a heartbeat of a chorus while like it’s been slowly shaped and honed over time. The band ‘Love for Granted’ is a longing, lovelorn ballad, the kind that E stated a strong desire to avoid losing musical focus and that should have hormoned-up teenagers weeping into their 5 shows too. They’ve taken simple pop themes and explored copies of Smash Hits. Then ‘Wctim of Crime’ nails Dr Dre them in an understated way with passion, humour and - beats to Tears for Fears, an illogical combination perhaps but, 7 excuse the racial stereotype - Gallic cool and detachment. amazingly, it works.

Opener ‘Everything is Everything’ bumps along shiftily, Thomas Mars also once claimed he came on stage at the singer Thomas Mars kicking off with a contradictory ‘Things band’s live performances on a huge white horse but couldn’t are gonna change . . . and not for better’ before unleashing a get it through customs in time for their debut at King Tut’s. By series of tricksy, on the whole feelgood, tunes. the sounds of it, the world he lives in would put big Frank’s to

The first single from the album, ‘Run Run Run’ is very near shame. (Mark Robertson)

8—22 Jul 2004 THE LIST 89