Phoenix: United


Why are some attempts at producing retro music successful (i.e. the neo-swing craze) while others are hideously unwelcome? Perhaps it has to do with the time between the original era and the present. The music has a few decades to cool off, people forget, new generations grow up and public tastes are again ready for what was once popular to make a second appearance.

But I would say it’s the music itself is good enough to withstand the test of time. If music was made good — it stays good, regardless of any production or instrument trends that may date the music.

Phoenix earned their stripes by backing fellow Frenchmen, the moogy, techno band Air on some UK television performances. They also recorded an instrumental dance tune, “Heat Wave,” for a 1998 French electronic music compilation from Source Records named Source Material. (More moogs for your money with that one.)

Given the direction the band seemed to be headed in, United surprises by revisiting an area in music that should have been left alone forever. Maybe my ears are just too unprepared for a resurgence of the overproduction of Chicago, R.E.O. Speedwagon or Boston.

Phoenix claim not to make retro music, that there is nothing intentionally kitschy about what they produce. They say they are just making what they consider good music. To each his own, I suppose. But I know I sure don’t have a soft spot in my heart for romantic pop rock from the early ’80s.

Taking a style that wasn’t terribly attractive in the first place and having a second go at it just isn’t a clever idea. On United, the music is unoriginal and the lyrics lack substance.

It surprises me that a respected, independent label like Astralwerks would waste their time and money releasing a CD of this mediocre quality.