2013 has been a very special year for Phoenix and for fans of the French band; they’ve performed on SNL & Jimmy Kimmel Live!, they’ve rocked Coachella, they’ve still got plenty more touring to do, including Lollapalooza this summer, and they’ve just released their new album. Bankrupt! is the follow up to their breakthrough album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, in which they continue with their brand of synth-driven, fast-slow songs with catchy hooks.
“Entertainment” is a great song to start off the album. It showcases the band’s knack for writing ultra-catchy songs and sure delivers on the song’s title. The Asian influence heard on the song’s hook is truly a highlight in this release and may end up being one for their entire catalog. “The Real Thing” goes against their formula, making the synthesizer less of a focal point, slowing it all down a bit, and then fails to deliver a catchy chorus. “S.O.S. in Bel Air” brings us back to where we want this album to be, applying the fast-slow technique and having a great synth groove that’s worked so well for the band. However, it lacks the appeal that a single would boast, making it a good B-side-type of track.
Phoenix slows it down once more for “Trying to Be Cool,” but this time they get it right. Thomas Mars sings “I’m just trying to be cool, it’s all because of you” and he delivers on that, employing a deeper tone for the vocals (as opposed to the falsetto he typically relies on) to better mirror the lyrics. At just 3 seconds shy of being 7 minutes long, the title track is a testament to the musicianship of the band, It’s long because it’s really more like 2 songs put together as one with the first half being an instrumental. It sounds like Pink Floyd circa Wish You Were Here, except with a much campier feel and less like a spirited, yet sad ode to Syd Barrett. On “Drakkar Noir,” the French band gets a tad bit more funky with a great synth riff that makes way for a good melody. It sounds a whole lot better than the cologne that bears the same name has ever smelled. “Chloroform” is another slow one and it sound like Phoenix taking on R&B, with their own twist of course; the instrumental refrain closes out the song excellently.
“Don’t” picks up the pace once more, riding a simplistic beat and minor instrumentation for another one of those B-sides true fans of the band would enjoy. “Burgeois” is another slow track, ok at best. It’s one of those songs that always seems like it’s building to something else but when it switches tempo, it’s never as good as you’d hope it would be. I usually really enjoy a song that includes “sha-la-la-la” but this one falls short. “Oblique City” is everything you want out of a Phoenix record, which makes it a good song but it’s still not completely there to make it a classic. It sports that same fast-slow style
Bankrupt! is an overall good album, but not great. What made Wolfgang so great is that it showed listeners just how great Phoenix can write a hook and their melodies and chorus lines would be stuck in your head for days, which made their live shows just one big awesome sing-along. While nothing stands out as much as how certain tracks did on their last effort, there are some really good tracks on this album. The key tracks (shown below) are good enough to keep this release from being just a decent effort, but Bankrupt! comes off as it’d appeal more to fans of the band rather than a release that would attract new ones.
Key Tracks: “Entertainment,” “Trying to Be Cool,” “Bankrupt!,”Drakkar Noir,” “Chloroform,” “Oblique City“