Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Meet… Phoenix

If you were on Tumblr in its heyday you know who Phoenix is. Even if you weren’t and you heard Lisztomania or 1901 at a party (or socially distanced pub) there would be a flicker of recognition in your eyes and you’d say something along the lines of “OH, those guys”. Phoenix isn’t really a band you need to ‘meet’ but it’s a band few people really know.

Initially formed as a ‘garage band’ in Paris in the 1990s, Phoenix were cooler than you from the start. They were a part of the iconic French cultural period that produced big names like Daft Punk, Justice and Air and ushered in a new generation of French Touch artists. Their debut album “United” was released in 2000 and featured Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk fame and production by the late Philippe Zdar. 

This was the start of the noughts and the start of Phoenix’s real glory days. They remain one of the defining sounds of the time whether you look at it through their contributions to films like Lost in Translation (directed by frontman Thomas Mars’ wife Sofia Coppola) and Shallow Hall or their iconic album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which won a grammy and peaked at #1 on several alternative charts.

They have been touted as the ‘only French rock band that matters” and their music made a significant impact on the French and international indie music scenes of the time and of today. Their output in the 2010’s was significantly reduced due to personal circumstances of various band members but they still managed to put out two well-received albums with Bankrupt! and Ti Amo and while these were maybe less culturally important that the albums before there are gems within each of these releases and plenty of good dance material. 

In the present day it seems Phoenix is more important than they are relevant, despite releasing a memoir last year to mark their 30th anniversary as a band, they haven’t been able to hold the attention of ‘music circles’ for some time. It is nevertheless exciting to hear that they have recently started working on new music in Paris and with the understanding that the 2010’s were a strange time for everyone, I have hope that Phoenix has more in store for us still. 

So, while the acronym for their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix might mean something else today when we look back in 20 years from now I think it will be Phoenix, not Cardi, that makes a lasting impression. 

Dilara Ball

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