There’s a point while listening to the new Phoenix album — and everyone will have a different point — when you’re bopping along to a perfectly fine wave of synth and you have to stop to ask, “What did they just say?”
Was that really a reference to melted gelato? What does “no more coral on the atoll” explain? Did the lead singer really compare himself to “a Siberian tiger”? What the heck does this line mean — “Don’t think about it/Trigger me happy” — on a song named after a semi-soft cheese?
Who knows? What it signals is that the French foursome is back with their own special blend of accessible pop and inscrutable lyrics. How much you enjoy the former is an indicator of how much you can endure the latter.
Phoenix on Ti Amo — Italian for “I love you” — are in a bubbly mood, singing in English, Italian, French and a little Spanish and referencing Champagne and fancy food quite a lot. Things seem to be quite comfortable in Phoenix-land: Not a lot of other bands mention they’re sunbathing in Rio or getting a motorboat for the summer.
The music is lush, overly complicated and peppy, the kind of non-offensive tunes you might hear from a teenager trying too hard with the party mix. The 10 tracks are perfectly fine even if none jump out like Too Young, 1901 or Everything Is Everything.
Then there’s those whacky lyrics. Lead singer Thomas Mars, appropriately married to Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola, seems determined to create word soup. He’s clearly a smart guy — he keeps up the Phoenix tradition of name-dropping great artists (this time it’s Picasso, Michelangelo and the Buzzcocks) and references the obscure Latin hymn Te Deum.
So why do we get some head-scratching lyrical gems like: “If you got to trust the guy, he’s no impersonator/What’s the matter with him mowing your lawn?”
Or this? “I will follow, I will follow, I’ll follow you around/And in front of a sonogram.”
Our advice? Don’t ask so many questions. Just keep dancing.