The Classic Crime – Phoenix

By Carter Fraser on August-9-2012 | Filed under Animal Farm Theme Essay.

The Classic Crime – Phoenix
Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/5Score: 4/54
4.9 (37 votes)

Artist: The Classic Crime (Bandcamp) (iTunes)
Release Date:
Carter Fraser


  1. One Man Army
  2. You and Me Both
  3. Young Again
  4. Beautiful Darkside
  5. Heaven and Hell
  6. Precipice
  7. Let Me Die
  8. Glass Houses
  9. Dead Rose
  10. Painted Dreams
  11. What I’d Give Up
  12. City of Orphans
  13. I Will Wait

There’s this wonderfully self-aware moment halfway through Phoenix where Matt MacDonald admits, “I dreamt I stood on a hill that I wished was a mountain / to look back on all my accomplishments / well they must have been small because I couldn’t seem to find them / so I took a leap off of the precipice,” completely summing up every word and sentiment on the entire album. Every moment up to this point has sounded mildly forced, but it’s “Precipice” that sees MacDonald and company seemingly conscious of this. As MacDonald sings, “I stood on a hill that I wished was a mountain,” you realize that he is reflecting back on his career, and he isn’t where he wanted to be six years ago when he wrote Albatross. You begin to realize that when he said, “I may not ever see a dime but I’ll be fine / yeah I still get by! / all the time a smile on my face,” he might not have completely meant it. Now, he means it. I mean, the man recently wrote an EP with his wife admittedly to raise money for their first baby. He doesn’t dream of being a rock star anymore. Now, Matt MacDonald is just your average Joe, even if that’s what he’s been trying to convince us of for years. And Phoenix is all the better for it.

Where Vagabonds saw The Classic Crime performing too lackadaisically, Phoenix sees them doing the exact opposite: trying very, very hard. The first half of Phoenix exhibits levels of grandeur never seen in a Classic Crime album. While it’s still pop punk at it’s core, it takes itself very seriously. The problem here is that they never seem comfortable, with the lyrics being the telltale signs. While lines like, “and you wonder why my eyes don’t leave my phone!” may be very realistic, they also comes off as a bit immature. That’s not to say this first half is bad by any means, for example “Heaven and Hell” is among the best songs of their career. The entire section just sounds forced. Which is why, contextually, “Precipice” is absolutely brilliant; it essentially acknowledges and explains the first half of Phoenix… and the second. Because when MacDonald concludes with “so I took a leap off of the precipice,” he is essentially preluding what’s to come: classic, Classic Crime.

Tracks 7 to 11 are rare examples of a band reflecting on their successes and shortcomings without any bitterness or frustration, only acceptance, perseverance and youthful exuberance. It’s essentially the same thing they’ve done all their careers, but performed with as much skill and wisdom as ever before. “Glass Houses” is the best, with its sweeping, anthemic chorus bringing to mind memories of “The Way That You Are,” with aggressive, catchy gang chants to boot. “Painted Dreams” and “What I’d Give Up” are highlights as well, with their nostalgic, catchy simplicity. The effective closer “City of Orphans” is everything you would expect from The Classic Crime after their last two closers, a soaring epic with the reflective mood of Phoenix, but with an outward perspective. Its beautiful, heartwarming, storytelling lyricism sets up a majestic climax that rivals any song they’ve ever produced.

Overall: The somewhat cliché title—Phoenix—in the end makes perfect sense. It’s a seemingly obvious allusion to their attempts to resurrect their career, but at the same time you get the feeling that it’s also a direct reference to their other avian album, Albatross, and what Albatross represented. It symbolizes their attempt to return to the naivety and energy of their roots, but with years of experience now under their belts. Hopefully this isn’t the end for The Classic Crime, though the world-weary tone might make you fear that it is. If it is, it’s an excellent way to go out.

RIYL: House of Heroes, Anberlin, Search the City, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday

The Classic Crime - Phoenix, 4.9 out of 5 based on 37 ratings

Doctoral Thesis Geology.

About the author Carter Fraser

I'm a student originally from Arlington, TX, but currently residing in St. Louis, MO. I enjoy music, going to concerts, playing and watching baseball, working with my hands, fishing, art, Minecraft, and sleeping/eating/other necessary activities for life. Long walks on the beach are acceptable as well. View all posts by Carter Fraser

58 Responses to 'The Classic Crime – Phoenix'

  1. scooby0110 says:

    Excellent review. I’m looking forward to this album.

  2. Lucas says:

    Such a great album! Really reminds me of The Everglow because it’s the whole album is a journey and is much better listened to all the way through, in my humble opinion, than listening to the individual songs. Still can’t say it tops The Silver Cord for me though. It still lacks the diversity and intensity that made that record so incredible to me. Both albums still get better with every listen though.

  3. Lucas says:

    By the way fantastic review Carter! It’ll be interesting listening to the album again with your thoughts in mind. :)

  4. Best Esaays. says:

    Excelent review, though I do think you left out the ties between the intro song and the outro song are important, because they tie the whole of the album together. Good analysis though Carter.

    Great job guys, definitely one of the tops of your career (funded by us, no less!) :)

  5. Justin (emergenscenery) says:

    I haven’t really gotten into these guys since the Silver Cord, but now I’m curious again. And this is a fantastic review. Your “overall” paragraph is extremely insightful. Cheers!!

  6. Jonathan says:

    This album has actually grown “off” of me a little bit. I thought it was a 5/5 after my first listen, but the songs have started to grow a little stale after a few listens. It’s still a great album though, and I definitely agree with the 4/5.

  7. Tyler says:

    Great insights. Some stuff I hadn’t quite put together…I can’t believe I missed the name’s tie to their first album. That’s awesome. As an album, I feel like it’s missing something that made me love their first two, but it’s still a good album. Matt’s honesty is inescapable. I feel like I’ve had so many conversations with him; I think that’s the effect of their discography. So much respect. It’s wonderful and amazing that they’re still a band, really. I hope they can keep going.

  8. Thanks for the kind words! This doesn’t top The Silver Cord for me either but it’s probably my second favorite LP of theirs.

  9. Luke Foster says:

    Cant wait to hear this, even though vagabonds was one of 2010’s biggest dissapointments

  10. linds4lif says:

    Haha I feel the opposite, I liked all of the songs MINUS “Painted Dreams” and “what I’d give up” they were your highlights and are my filler/skip songs, the lyrics are too cliche in these 2 songs to me but the others I don’t find forced at all.

    Lyrics are my favorite part of this album as usual they were honest and from the heart, and they make you look inward like in “glasshouse” and “heaven & hell”

  11. Intrestin. I had no idea they wer off t+ n now.

    • Ian says:

      That would extremely stupid if they did a kickstarter while still being on a label. I betcha someone out there has done it though

    • ^^ I didnt even know it was a kistarta project. I just saw “Label: none” at the top of the page. I duno of any bands doin kikstartas wile stil bein on a label, but ther has been sum that hav dun kikstartas only 2 b signed and/ or licensed 2 a label 4 the oficial release. and thats shady enuf 4 me, lol.

    • Brandon says:

      Well some bands are doing the whole project on their own and then deciding to license album to label or distribution at the end. I think this is a great idea because it’ll mean more money for these bands. I don’t think it’s shady at all

  12. Lucas says:

    So curious…to those who have given Phoenix a good listen how would you rank TCC’s albums now? At this point I think I’d rank them this way:

    1) The Silver Cord
    2) Phoenix
    3) Vagabonds
    4) Seattle Sessions
    5) Albatross

    • matt2010 says:

      1) The Silver Chord
      2) Phoenix
      3) Albatross
      4) Seattle Sessions
      5) Vagabonds

      2-4 are pretty much a dead tie. I really didn’t like Vagabonds though. Don’t get me wrong, it was ok… but I expect way more from TCC than just ok. They went from Silver Chord, which is my all time favorite album (as a whole) from any band, to Vagabonds which, when I see any of it’s song come up on my iPod, I instinctively skip. Vagabonds just got way too old way too fast and it wasn’t like they’re other stuff at all. I think that’s why they decided to go indie (pure speculation). And look what happened when they struck out on their own. They came up with Phoenix, which may not be their BEST album, but it’s on par with or slightly better than their average. If they make another album that surpasses the mountain of awesome that is The Silver Chord… man… I can’t even imagine it.

      I love TCC and I hope they go on to make at least 1 or 2 more albums, but if this is their swan song, I enjoyed it. Correction: I am still enjoying it.

    • jthejust says:

      I would give them literally the exact same ranking.

    • Tim says:

      Seattle Sessions is one of the best things I’ve ever heard. Wish they’d do another raw acoustic EP.

    • Jonathan says:

      1) The Silver Chord
      2) Albatross
      3) Phoenix
      4) Vagabonds
      5) Seattle Sessions

    • Tyler says:

      1) The Silver Cord
      2) Albotross
      3) Seattle Sessions

      Not sure if I like Phoenix more than Vagabonds yet, but both are pretty solid.

    • At this point I’d rank them:

      1) Silver Cord
      2) Phoenix
      3) Albatross
      4) Seattle Sessions
      5) Vagabonds

      And I love Vagabonds.

    • Lucas says:

      Not that Albatross isn’t a good record, but I’m still surprised by how much love it gets.

    • Iaya97 says:

      Without having heard Phoenix, I would say

      1) The Silver Cord (For obvious reasons)
      2) Seattle Sessions (Seriously, no love? It’s probably the best acoustic album I’ve ever heard)
      3) Vagabonds (Solid, but too many songs are skippable and forgettable – “Solar Powered Life” is my summer jam though)
      4) Albatross (Some good songs, but not that great)

    • Lucas says:

      From a purely musical standpoint I’d probably swap Vagabonds and Seattle Sessions, but I listen to Vagabonds a little more since it’s more upbeat.

    • Iaya97 says:

      I’m not sure “Seattle Sessions” is lacking anything musically. Simplicity is not a bad thing, and TCC did amazing things with just percussion and an acoustic guitar (in many spots). The variety in those seven tracks is what gets me.

    • Josh Hamm says:

      I agree with Tim and Iaya97, Seattle Sessions is amazing. As much as I love The Silver Cord, and love what I’ve heard so far from Phoenix, Seattle Sessions remains my most played records from them.

    • Silver Cord, Seattle Sessions (c’mon guys it’s awesome), Phoenix, Vagabonds, Albatross

    • Iaya97 says:

      After listening to Phoenix, I’d say it’s tied for second with Seattle Sessions – that’s my political, avoiding making a decision answer.

  13. Roger V says:

    After this album I hope that TCC decides to continue making new music. I realize their lives and families are well underway but I think they have the chops and fan base to continue.. even if many don’t get to see them on tour again. In the digital world we live in they can only expand their reach and I’m sure there are plenty of fans who will continue to support their efforts in the future.

  14. jthejust says:

    For me, the first half was better than the second half, with both of the weak songs coming in the second half (Dead Rose and Painted Dreams).

    By the way, for those wondering, this review fails to mention how very spiritual the lyrics are on this album. Matt really struggles with his faith, and like a Phoenix, rises from the ashes to victory with Christ, while acknowledging that the world is still a hard place to live in. Or at least that’s how I understood the album.

  15. Roger says:

    The Silver Cord is their best stuff and one of my favorite albums of all time and I have collected at least
    600 albums plus over the past 30 years. If Phoenix comes close then that would be great. Vagabonds was okay and I like it but still not in comparison to Silver Cord.

  16. Brody B says:

    I haven’t been able to sit down and listen to the whole thing yet, but I love what I have heard so far though.

  17. Brian says:

    Great review Carter! Though I do think you left out how the intro and the outro songs tie together the rest of the album in a cohesive package, as it begins with a resolution that he is fighting a battle as a one man army, and at the end he determines to give up control, and let you (God) fight for him. I did like how you reminded us of the avian references, and like your description of The Precipice.

    But overall, great job guys (the band)! You guys gave it all you had and your fans were more than happy to help support you!


  18. JimmyT says:

    Best album i have heard this year.

  19. Tanya says:

    Hmmm I actually like vagabonds more than the silver cord…. Love the Seattle seasons… Albatross is ok… Guess I’m odd man out in my ranking..

  20. That violin! I swear that same high note is constantly whistling in every song. One of the best albums this year. Go pick it up if you haven’t yet.

  21. Zac says:

    I can’t stand in every review of Phoenix, or comment, the main thing is comparing this with Silver Chord. Listen people, TCC isnt aiming to make an album like silver chord, or an album like silver chord. Say one’s better than another or whatever, but they are completely different, and both amazing.
    “Well its good but not as good as silver chord” AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    • TheArchangel says:

      Agreed, sir… BUT that IS going to be the logical response stemming from high expectations of bands. We compare albums. It’s kinda natural.

  22. Roger says:

    Finally. picked up Phoenix. Simply Amazing. I know many want to compare this to “The Silver Cord”. Reason is that The Classic Crime could very well be one of the best bands to never ever been heard by many people and what a shame that is. The Silver Cord is one of those albums from beginning to end that is just a musical masterpiece. It is like pure rock the way it should be intended. Now onto Phoenix, another great album, especially songs like Heaven and Hell, The Precipice and Glass Houses. Love the soaring lyrics, the harmonies, the melodies. Rock pure and simple with no fluff. Love this album and it will be one of my favorite’s because just like The Silver Cord this is an epic journey from start to finish. An album that requires a listen all the way through time and time again.

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