Tales from MVT: “Alpha Zulu” by Phoenix

Tales from MVT is a regularly-occurring series of blog posts where I choose one of the videos from our Music Video Theatre sessions and write about it. Music Video Theatre has become one of the most fun and enriching experiences of my current life, and for a multitude of reasons, has sparked abundant creativity. It serves as the inspiration for this series of silly little blog posts.

Song: “Alpha Zulu”
Artist: Phoenix
Director: Pascal Teixeira, Emma Besson and Louis Bes
Appeared in: MVT Vol. 9
Chosen by: Kristin


“Pop Rocks” is Channel 12 on SiriusXM and I have a love/despise relationship with it. I flip to it frequently, and perhaps just as frequently, flip away from it because they’re playing something in the various adjacent categories of Third Eye Blind, Daughtry, or Bowling for Soup. It’s the middlest part of the middle of the road of mainstream rock taste. Part of me has an immediate gag reflex at that very concept.

But time makes fools of us all, and I find myself enjoying a lot of what plays on the channel. As I write this, today as I drove around, the channel featured “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, “Malibu” by Hole, and “I Go Blind” by Hootie and The Blowfish. I like all of those songs! Granted, they didn’t occur in any order that fostered uninterrupted enjoyment, but whatever.

Unquestionably the greatest thing this channel broadcasts is when artists “take over” the programming and play songs and other artists that influenced them. I don’t doubt their sincerity, but I also easily picture a SiriusXM producer handing the bands a stapled 5-page document that has disingenuous language like, “You can pick any song that influenced you, but it would be REALLY HELPFUL AND MAYBE LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE for you to pick from this list of 250 or so songs we don’t have to do any extra work for and that won’t freak out our audience.”

So Phoenix showed up for this segment, and I was unprepared for just how French these dudes are. I know that sounds idiotic, but, until writing this very piece, I had a very surface level knowledge of them. I knew they were called “Phoenix.” I knew their hit “1901” because that song is like nitrogen in the atmosphere. They make music that I never find unwelcome. That was about it. But my god, are they French. PETIT DEJUEUNER FOR EVERYONE!

“Alpha Zulu” is such a fun song. Woo-ha! Singin’ halle-lu-JAH! In the car it’s a family singalong. It’s a song that’s perfect for just about any time of day. And despite the intense catchiness of that hook, it’s a song that could easily become grocery store ambience half a decade from now.

But then there’s the video.

The concept is simple, which is usually true of all the best shit. You overcomplicate things, and people will start to tune out. In this case, take a bunch of classic paintings and animate them to look like they’re lip syncing to the song and bobbing their heads along with the beat. That’s it. That’s the whole video. But you do it 60-75 times over the course of the song’s <3:00 runtime and do it with some verve, some panache and some off-kilter cheekiness, and it becomes one of the best fucking videos you’ll ever watch. I could (and maybe should) watch this video every single day and probably not get tired of it. It’s fun. It’s whimsical. It’s exquisitely crafted.

Of course it was Kristin who chose this. She has what I call effortless cool in her taste in music videos. Her selections are generally unimpeachable and she’s the one who chooses videos that literally no one in the group can take umbrage with. Pisses me off.

I’m kidding, but it’s goddamned uncanny just how flawless her list pretty much always is. Jeff is sometimes marooned in Weirdberg or Hornyville, USA while Jason and I end up either beholden to our punk rock overlords or up our own asses manicuring these lists within in an inch of their lives only for them to still end up self-serving with a handful of songs that land with a big ol’ thud.

Kristin, to use a golf metaphor, manages to just grip it and rip it. And the videos fucking rule. This one is among the ones that rule the hardest.

Woo-ha! Singin’ halle-lu-JAH!

Damn, that’s catchy.

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