100 for 2000 – #3. Phoenix – United

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2000 – #3. Pheonix – United
(Astralwerks)

So we thought Beachwood Sparks were cool because they were a band we could be in. But all my friends and I loved Phoenix because they came from outer space. Who the fuck were these guys? In 2000, it was a sweet mystery. It started with their debut album United.

This was a huge album for me, and my circle of friends. The album is fantastic through and through. No two songs sound the same. And that can be said for a lot of albums. But how many go from pastiche-ing the sweet California pop of Bread, then goes into a ten minute space rock jam with crowd noise and vocoders?

It might be odd to say now, but this album reminded me of KISS. The fun-as-hell riffs. It was a rock and roll dance party. There was nothing deep going on lyrically. But from the opening guitar sounds on the instrumental School Rules, it sounds like it was built for stadium rock.

In Australia at least, the album came with a fantastic sticker with a quote from FACE magazine: “Undoubtedly the best post-French house, seventies Californian, country-rock concept album of modern love songs you’ll ever likely to hear.” (I applaud the marketing manager behind that bit of genius).

Too Young and If You Ever Feel Better were indie club smash hits. You would tell people about this great record, and play someone Too Young. And most likely they will say “I know this song!!” followed by ” I fucking love this song!!”

The great thing, the thing that pushed them over the edge for us, was the mystery. They were from France? No photos in the booklet, no website to speak off. No Youtube or MySpace either. Someone told me that they don’t even speak English, that a friend had written the lyrics. I’m not sure that’s true, but I believed it at the time.

It’s such a studio album, you can’t even tell how many members were in the band at all! Of course, now in 2009, with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix such a big hit, we know a lot about them. I sometimes wish we didn’t.

I didn’t care much for the next two albums. If they had stopped with this one perfect album, they would have gone down as the Modern Lovers or something. That band who made one perfect record then never did anything like that again. It’s a romantic notion that only record nerds have.

I still love this record, even though I’ve now read and heard interviews about how it was made. But it’s still a perfect record. 10 tracks under 40 minutes. I wish I had it on vinyl. And it still doesn’t sound like it’s from 2000. Funny how the left field has, by the end of the decade, become the norm.

I am glad that this band is now huge. And they still play songs from this record, and hopefully people are going back.

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