Phoenix - Long Distance Call
I can tell you that the main reason I didn’t like Phoenix or rather, didn’t allow myself to like Phoenix, is because I didn’t really let myself enjoy much about music in general when I was younger. I had very strict ideas about what was “good” music or “important” music and Phoenix didn’t really fit into my narrow definition. What I’m trying to tell you is that I was like most twenty-year-olds in that I was entirely insufferable and took everything, especially myself, way too seriously. I didn’t even like pop music! At least not around my friends.
I heard “Long Distance Call” on a mix while in my then-boyfriend’s apartment in New York City. He was at work and I was listening to music without paying much attention to the artists, the tracks having been relabelled for the mix. I hit repeat on one track, “Long Distance Call,” and listened to it on loop for about two hours, pulled in quickly, even dancing at one point. I hadn’t had that much fun since I was a kid and insisted on being Ginger Spice every time my friends played Spice Girls dress up. My then-boyfriend soon came home and wrinkled his nose at my laptop.
I shut my laptop and quickly made the excuses you make when you still care about what people think of your taste, when you base entire relationships and friendships around someone’s taste, when you still think what people like is more important than what they are like. It would be another four years until I let myself sit down on a Sunday afternoon and listen to this song and every other song Phoenix has recorded. I liked a lot of them while others left me cold but I let myself love what I did because, well, it was as simple as that. Sometimes it takes a while to get to a place where you don’t instantly hate something because it’s not what you usually like or what you think is cool. There isn’t always a concrete reason why you love or hate a song, there isn’t always an exact moment when you change your mind about a song but at some point, you changed and it’s enough to open you up to the possibility and really, isn’t that what counts?
I’m older than my wife and I first heard “Long Distance Call” in a quasi-professional context; the Singles Jukebox, then still part of Stylus. 2006 was a year where I didn’t find many straightforward rock albums that I liked, and it was also a year with some personal turmoil; seeing as how this kind of thing was (one kind of) musical comfort food to me, I latched on to It’s Never Been Like That.
Thinking that an album is a great work because it Means Something to you is a young person’s error, and even then I wasn’t quite that young. I figured that the album was a good but minor work that happened to resonate with me; but it wasn’t anything I felt the need to proselytize about or particularly defend. But if you look the blurb from Edward Oculicz (a friend, a writer whom I massively respect, and one of the people most responsible for keeping the Jukebox going) in that old column, you can see the sort of thing I started hearing a lot from friends; not just that the new Phoenix album wasn’t good, but that it was a massive disappointment. Many were less charitable about it than Ed was.
None of this was going to change my opinion of my friends, or of the new Phoenix album I already liked, but few things are as likely to irrationally turn me against an artist’s earlier work as people slagging off the stuff I already like in favour of it. It didn’t help that I hadn’t get that much out of the older singles I’d heard. By now, the end of 2012, I’ve found older material I liked, like “Summer Days” (which, okay, would fit in just fine on It’s Never Been Like That), but at the time all I could think when I’d listen to them next to “Long Distance Call” is “the other stuff isn’t better than these songs that Mean Something to me!” And these days, with my wife and I living in different countries until she’s done school and can move up here, “Long Distance Call” still Means Something to me, but something entirely new and wonderful.
— Anaïs and Ian Mathers
Anaïs will feature on OWOB shortly; Ian wrote for us about Underworld.