Phoenix are one more time into extreme relevance. Coming back with a new album, 18 months after Alphabetical and 30 Days Ago, their live album released within the 30 days that followed their 2004-05 tour (150 dates across 3 continents). After their last show in August 2005, they decided to stay away from reality and get straight into the next album process. Four Parisian boys with brotherly love, set out for Berlin last summer, settling down at Planet Roc studios, in former East Germany, without a single song written but determined to write, record and produce their third album themselves with no outside participation and no compromises. The studio is a no manâ€™s land haunted by the ghosts of a past state radio, a peopleâ€™s cooperative for a future better recorded world. In the huge and shady spaces, post Bauhaus architectural extravagance and unreal surroundings, the boys set themselves the task of writing as they recorded, without any idea as to what it might feel or sound like. Because the relationship and synchronicity of the four gallic boysâ€™ unique mindset started back in childhood, they could afford the risk. They entered the recording process determined to find the sincerity of the first take. There would be none of the luxurious soundscaping they had perfected on Alphabetical or its wildly eclectic but strangely coherent predecessor, United. This time it was all about spontaneity and rawness. â€œThere is a brutality to the record,â€? says Thomas Mars, Phoenixâ€™s photogenic mouthpiece, stumbling across a cross fader in their Versailles studio, â€œThis was about starting all over, making ourselves scared again & telling the truth.â€? If there is the kind of scrubbed-up freshness you might expect to hear on a particularly striking debut album to the four-strong Frenchmenâ€™s third record, there is a reason for that. Breaking through any kind of calculation, it feels like the band as found a hard won freedom that has both integrity and coherence. They attacked this new album as though they had never recorded together before. But there is no accounting for musical telepathy. Something gelled. â€œItâ€™s Never Like Thatâ€? is the result of a sincere step, something thoughtful and alive. Here is the masterpiece that Phoenix have always threatened to make. Itâ€™s Never Been Like That was conceived with a live mentality, in a straight line, summing up a lot of the bandâ€™s emotions and past experiences, sometimes conflicting, often disrupting. All the songs are autobiographic and set down emotional equations where disillusion and exaltation try to find a common language. This is a romantic album although very rigorously made. Rhythms are hard, arrangements straightforward, violently simple and close to the bone: 2 guitars, 1 bass, drums and a 4-month deadline. Cult of the first take and symptomatic sincerity. These ways of production are rare and belong to great albums.