2015 reissue of Phoenix's third album from 2006. Originally released at a time when every band with a guitar was moving toward the dancefloor, the French pop masters were just packing up and leaving the club. After two albums of minor disco infusions, the appropriately titled It's Never Been Like That finds the foppy Frenchmen brushing up on their rock chops and lobbing off the excess fat that sometimes found its way onto their past efforts (i.e. shambling, sloppy country-influenced joints). Instead, tracks like "Consolation Prize" are sharp and fully-formed, mimicking the cheerier, janglier riffs of The Smiths' Johnny Marr; "Long Distance Call" and "One Time Too Many" show Phoenix's airy, catchy side, too, and a penchant for light-hearted semi-narratives. And about 2/3 of the way through the album, when I thought I had Phoenix pegged, they throw a curveball: "North" is the album's lone instrumental, 5 minutes full of intricate and hypnotic guitar work. Also recommended: the album-closing 1-2 punch of "Sometimes In The Fall" and "Second To None." 10 tracks; 42 minutes total.
- music label: Virgin 2006 / Parlophone 2015
reviewed by Van Hammersley 03/2015