Phoenix have developed something of a habit of not dwelling on any particular musical genre for too long. The French four-piece have had layovers in indie pop, alternative rock and, more recently, Japanese and Korean synth-pop on 2013’s excellent Bankrupt!. On Ti Amo, the group sub out Eastern Asia for Western Europe, but melodically and tonally it’s not much of a departure from their last album. For the first time in their nearly twenty-year career, it feels as though they’re retreading old ground.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. On the surface, buoyant lead single J-Boy may seem like a shameless repeat of Bankrupt! standout Entertainment, with its gleaming synth line and unabashedly cheesy chorus. And it kind of is, but it’s utterly irresistible in its corniness and by far the best song on the album. Aside from this gem though, there’s nothing here the band didn’t already do better on their last record – or 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That in the case of Strokes-tinged closer Telefono – and far too often it sinks into aggressively bland europop or gaudy Italo disco.
Even the album’s better moments are nothing more than globs of candy, bursts of bliss that lose their flavour rapidly. The more interesting instrumental digressions are often undercut by cringeworthy lyricism, as with the salacious title track. A funky bassline and bustling coda aren’t enough to divert from the hackneyed lyrics, in which vocalist Thomas Mars spuriously mulls 'Champagne or Prosecco?' and namedrops Rio over the sound of a plane taking off. Really. The band took all the wrong lessons from the success of their last album, and doubled down on the syrup. Turns out too much sugar really can make you sick.
Listen to: J-Boy, Fleur De Lys