Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Phoenix – Lisztomania

This is apparently the actual lead single off their album. We preferred the other one…


Alex Macpherson: There is no reason whatsoever to call it “Lisztomania” except to let listeners know that Phoenix have heard of Liszt, because the song has as much to do with Liszt or Lisztomania as Franz Ferdinand’s “Ulysses” had to do with James Joyce, i.e. nothing whatsoever. Sadly.

Martin Kavka: I assume that this is about the doomed nature of one’s relationships when musical skill is part of one’s erotic appeal, as was the case with Franz Liszt. The whole song seems to be written from a fugue-like state — I can’t think of another song at the moment in which the lyrics seemed both so important and so inscrutable — and even though it’s not as creative as “1901,” there is still intelligence on display in almost every measure. Two cheers for insanity.

Anthony Easton: Extra point for being named after one of my favorite Ken Russell movies. It’s pleasant, you nod along, there is a certain amount of upbeat energy that seems appropriate for the text, the instrumentation is well constructed. Solidity is not to be under rated, though.

Dave Moore: I don’t get it, it’s like the lower Phoenix set their sights, the more popular they get. I mean…what is it? The melody feels arbitrary and improvised, the beat has a nice little shuffle to it, the chorus…it’s a chorus, I guess, but it isn’t really landing anywhere, just hopping onto odd unresolved notes. They even thrash around at the end like the song was actually going somewhere, but the experience is more like spinning in circles like an idiot for a bit before sitting down to read quietly.

Keane Tzong: “Lisztomania” indicates that Phoenix seem to have managed to perfect their brand of neat, precise pop. It’s tidy, and hooky, and makes sure to deliver just the right number of each and every one of its hooks into your brain without ever making repetition seem like a bad thing. A thoroughly pleasant 4 minutes, but not one that leaves the listener gasping for more; some will cite this as a deficiency on Phoenix’s part, but I say they should be given credit for what they have managed to provide.

Ian Mathers: At first I didn’t think this was as good as “1901”, now I think it may be better. And not just because of this, or that floaty middle eight that evokes two or three other tracks on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix before launching into the chorus again. That chorus! I could spend a few paragraphs talking about the lyrics, but let’s instead just bask in the guitar that comes in after Mars sings “from the mess to the masses”. I can’t even be articulate about this song, I love it too much. It comes it comes it comes it comes it comes and goes, indeed.

Anthony Miccio: Since “The French Strokes” is an overplayed if on-point metaphor, here’s another one: early ’80s REM walking on sunshine. Thomas Mars’ voice isn’t as gripping as Michael Stipe’s (he is French), but Phoenix make lively guitar-pop out of indie inchoateness like none since.

Michaelangelo Matos: I find their blank affect charming but limited, and would like to suggest that their real American analog isn’t the Strokes (huh?) but Spoon c. Gimme Fiction — equally commanding, equally unreadable.

Edward Okulicz: A perfectly competent collection of notes and dinky guitars with absolutely nothing thrilling, interesting or memorable about it whatsoever. We already have one Spoon, and that’s quite enough.

Tom Ewing: A pop landscape garden, this: painstakingly detailed, elegantly constructed, full of well-planned paths. But for me at least not inviting: what’s it for, exactly? From the well-placed builds and ebbs I can deduce how I’m meant to respond physically, but if I look to the song for any kind of emotional lead it might as well be speaking Martian.

Martin Skidmore: Strangled voices (but not strangled enough), aimless strumming, some hints of an interest in (but no grasp of) dance music, no detectable song. There is a brief patch where the music at least starts to gallop, but then they realise they don’t know where they are galloping to, so they stop for a look around. They don’t find anything.

Chuck Eddy: The shuffling underneath sounds like the Smiths’ idea of Motown, evolving into the Smiths’ idea of Gary Glitter. The song would feel more songlike if it had a coherent beginning, middle, and end. If the words mean anything, the meaning gets lost somewhere between the singer’s trachea and epiglottis.

Alfred Soto: Cute, like all their stuff. I don’t get why some of our peers get so excited, though: calling these guys makers of “perfect pop” is like praising M&Ms for their chocolatey goodness. The thick production lacquer hides a number of vocal deficiencies, and its pace is more enthusiastic than frantic.

Hillary Brown: There is something so glammy and fruity about these songs that I can’t help myself. Each one is like a big old piece of lemon pie, tart in all the right places but a little dreamy too.

8 Responses to “Phoenix – Lisztomania”

  1. Damn you, Mathers.

  2. You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

    For what, Alfred?

  3. Lizstomania is a Ken Russell movie, Lex.

  4. i would’ve given this a 10

  5. I was really keen to actually bother listening to the new album based on 1901 but on the basis of this it’s probably going to sound more like the last one, rather than the first one.

  6. Good track but prefer the Fight For Love / 25 Hrs A Day remix

  7. I really have to disagree with everyone who says the melody seems improvised. The main reason i love pheonix is the inginuity of Thomas Mars’ melodic phrases. Lisztomania (along with Sometimes in the fall and Long Distance Call) are examples of this, and are SO refreshing to listen to.

  8. This song is genius!!!! If you were to research Franz Liszt you would find he is well known for his thematic transitions. I suggest listening to his Sonata in b minor! The changes in the song blow your mind and catch you off guard. Who says writing must be literal. Phoenix’s reference to Liszt is purely metaphorical. His feelings to whomever he is talking about change quite rapidly and drastically.

    “So sentimental
    Not sentimental no !
    Romantic not disgusting yet
    Darling I’m down and lonely
    When with the fortunate only
    Ive been looking for something else”

    He’s obviously going back and forth just like Liszt’s compositions. And the perfect “thematic transition” into the chorus. The song drops out to just delayed Wurlitzer and the line “Lisztomania” brilliant. I hope Phoenix continues to keep me on the edge of my seat, not knowing what to expect next, just like Liszt.