Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That (Cover Artwork)


It's Never Been Like That (2006)

Astralwerks / EMI

Maybe I've just been watching too much Yacht Rock lately, but when listening to Phoenix's It's Never Been Like That I couldn't help but think of the word smooth. Of course this isn't smooth in the Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan sense, but smooth in a hip studio savvy way. Each track is like a Sunday drive with no bumps in the road. You can just set that shit on cruise control and enjoy the scenery, because Phoenix aren't going to be producing any potholes or animal carcasses. Instead, each song is compact and precise in its delivery. The momentum never wavers as each instrument rings out ultra clear and unobtrusive.

Then come the vocals.

You can't have a smooth album without some laid back and well-executed singing and Phoenix deliver in that department. The melodies are immediate and inviting as they glide over the funk-by-way-of-pop album sound leaving you feeling like vocalist Thomas Mars is sitting shotgun and telling you about his week.

If anything holds It's Never Been Like That back it is Phoenix's lack of diversity. Besides the George Michael stomp of "Consolation Prizes," the Hall and Oates soul of "Long Distance Call," and the instrumental interlude in "North" every song is based around the same stuttering up-tempo pop. In other words, if you don't like one Phoenix song, you probably won't like any Phoenix song, a problem that could make listening to It's Never Been Like a bit difficult. Still, if you are in the market for some lighter fare that is head bobbing, catchy, and of course smooth, Phoenix is well worth a listen.