These men are French. Pop just got a whole lot more - how you say? - [I]sophisticated[/I].

Mixed by Cassius' Phillipe Zdar and featuring irredeemably funky input from Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter and Air, a survivor from Serge Gainsbourg's original band and France's equivalent of Eddie 'The Axe' Van Halen, 'United' is the album on which Phoenix invited all their friends into the studio to have, as singer Thomas Mars hollers on 'Funky Square Dance', "a real good tiiime tonight!". Yes: they have a song called 'Funky Square Dance'. It's an 11-minute country electro hoedown. And my, how those good times shine through.

Phoenix are four pretty French 20-somethings: best friends for ten years; share a flat together in Paris; mates with Daft Punk; played as Air's TV backing band; have one copy of 'Thriller' between them and were last year categorised as a dance act thanks to the elastic disco of their 'Heatwave' single. But if you expected more of that, well don't worry, because nobody expected anything quite like this.

Such is the group's unconditional love for, chiefly, Michael Jackson, AC/DC and The Beach Boys that parts of 'United' could be considered slavish pastiche (see the blue-eyed country-by-numbers of 'Summer Days', the Miami Vice synth'n'sax smarm of 'Definitive Breaks'). But what saves Phoenix, and what makes this an extraordinary debut, is their unique appropriation of '80s US FM rock ('Too Young') and immaculate 'Off The Wall'-era grooves ('If I Ever Feel Better', 'Honeymoon'). There is no irony here. These men are French. Pop just got a whole lot more - how you say? - sophisticated.
8 / 10

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