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Say Cheese!


Just about the time that I thought Astralwerks had tapped out the French market, along comes Phoenix and their pop/rock style that throws tons of different styles in the mixing pot and comes out with something retro and new at the same time. Oh yeah, and it's also really really cheesy in parts. Like Lionel Richie cheesy, and if you don't like the French rock, you'd best steer clear from this release in a wide wide path. Even though they do rock out quite a bit in parts, they also float through the breeze like Air on a couple occassions, ham it up like a 70s lounge act in others, and even kick a bit of white boy funk on other tracks. Of course, that's really just the start of things, too.

The album actually starts out with a wee track that's a pretty simple rock instrumental, but works nicely to lead into the album and the first real track entitled, "Too Young." It's on this track that the group bumps up the lite rock factor a bit with the keyboard pop and some happy little plucked bass. It sounds pretty damn 70's and even the vocal track makes you think back to Todd Rundgren or something. That said, it's also pretty catchy and if you like the lite pop, it might just be as good as a cup of lemonade on a breezy sunny summer afternoon. From there, the group goes into "Honeymoon," which works a slower groove very nicely with some plucked harp like sounds and old school organ sounds.

The very next song on the album "If I Ever Feel Better" is sort of a disco-funk track that I can imagine being the big single from the disc. Although it's the one that sounds almost like the group is trying to imitate Lionel Ritchie, it has just the right amount of swagger to put a shake in your hips and a little groove in your step. Needless to say, though, it's super cheeseball. The group kicks out the jams on the very next track with "Party Time" and turns up the fuzz on the guitar and the filters on the vocals. It shows that they can work the rock tracks as well as the lite funk groove, but they go right back to the soft on the very next track (even with a backup female chorus) of "On Fire."

They even try a bit of country-tinged vocodor action on the beginning of "Funky Squaredance" before things drop off and the track changes into some weird rock retread with live crowd samples and a flaming guitar solo worthy of Van Halen. The album closes out with a fairly close remix of "Too Young" and the whole retro-fest is over in about 40 minutes. Overall, it's a really uneven release and despite some high points, it just doesn't really feel very substantial. I really don't even know who to recommend this album to since it's all over the place and quite quite lite and cheesy in many spots. I guess if you like the breezy pop music (and it definitely wears its French influence on it's sleeve), then snag it up, otherwise try for something more substantial.

Rating: 5.25