It's Never Been Like That

Studio Album by released in 2006
It's Never Been Like That's tracklist:
Napoleon Says
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Consolation Prizes
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Rally
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Long Distance Call
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One Time Too Many
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Lost and Found
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Courtesy Laughs
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North
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Sometimes in the Fall
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Second to None
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It's Never Been Like That review

Parisian quartet has created its most immediately endearing album

The French band Phoenix draws elements from an eclectic '80s upbringing to arrive at their rock-synth sound. Thomas Mars (vocals), Deck D'Arcy (bass), and Christian Mazzalai (guitars) were a garage band based out of Mars' house in the suburbs of Paris. Mazzalai's older brother Laurent Brancowitz joined the band on guitar when his band Darlin' disbanded in 1995. Why Phoenix's debut album, 2000's United, never graced more end-of-year lists is a mystery. Maybe it affected the French pop-rock band's morale, since their follow-up, Alphabetical, lacked the joie de vivre that its predecessor oozed. Whatever, on its third full-length, It's Never Been Like That, Parisian quartet has created its most immediately endearing album, condensing its members' talent for complex pop music into 10 concise nuggets of rock candy. This is the kind of record the Strokes and countless other newfangled pop/rock groups have been trying to make over the first half of the decade. But nobody's done it with such effortless flair as Phoenix. The band is capable of composing elaborate orchestral music and much poppier fare. But here, the group concentrates on the visceral, and the results shine through in deceptively simple, richly textured songs.

More vigorous, straightforward approach

It’s Never Been Like That was conceived with a live mentality. As a result, it strips away the epic soundscaping that was rife throughout Alphabetical, or the eclectic approach they adopted for United in favor of a more vigorous, straightforward approach. This is highlighted in the siren-like guitar riff that marks the start of the album on Napolean Says – a towering anthem that is joyously upbeat, energetic and bold. The guitar riffs throughout the remainder of the track are fast, fierce and striking, while Thomas Mars vocals aspire to skyscraping greatness during the chorus. Consolation Prizes is a boisterous performer, packed with crisp melodies and lively guitar riffs, as well as a nicely layered chorus (think The Kooks of Naive), while Rally is constructed around the sort of acoustic guitar melodies that made Blur's Coffee and TV such an enduring favorite. Then comes the single, Long Distance Call, which effortlessly drops a stop-start verse that’s punctuated by the sort of low-key but effective keyboard motifs that Phoenix are renowned for. Further highlights include the more slow-building Lost And Found, which sort of tumbles into its shambolic chorus, and final track, Second To None, an edgy finale that succeeds in exuding the jump-around zeal the band were seeking.

It's Never Been Like That is the first "summer" album of 2006

For their third album, the fashion-mag-perfect foursome has finally knocked out an album that just about makes listening to every track a worthwhile experience. The band has definitely learned a thing or two through its evolution, placing more of an emphasis on guitar than before (Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai sound as if they've been in the woodshed studying the chops of Johnny Marr and the twin-guitar attack of the Strokes' last few records), and their performances sound more confident than ever. Phoenix haven't just followed 2004's Alphabetical; they've bettered it. The result is an album that’s deliberately sunnier, stronger, more coherent and alive – as exemplified by current single, Long Distance Call, a shimmering piece of indie-pop perfection that seems tailor-made with the warmer weather in mind. Who knew these French electronic dance boys had this good of a pop rock record in them? It's Never Been Like That is the first "summer" album of 2006, a collection of charming songs; most replete with jangly/staccato acoustic rhythms and heart-on-sleeve lyrics, all enshrouded with a warm fuzz that provides an instantly retro resonance. Roll down the windows and cruise the strip. You don't need anywhere to go, just 37 minutes of sunshine.