Review: Phoenix’s new album ‘Bankrupt!’

The singles on Phoenix”s new album “Bankrupt!” aren”t there like they were on breakout “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” but that doesn”t make this new album inferior to the previous. In fact, the French dance-rockers have a much deeper and dimensional coherence to sound than ever before, making this effort seem much more complete as an album, and not just a vehicle for hits.

Opener and lead single “Entertainment” is better on repeat listens, and introduces the tonal melodies and washy, sarcastic voice of the other nine tracks.  The song titles “S.O.S. in Bel Air,” “Drakkar Noir,” “Trying to Be Cool” and “Bourgeouis” contrast with the punctuated “Bankrupt!” with an air of good fun, insinuating a superficiality in it glimmering mix of high synths and cheesy, slinky New Wave nods. The siren keys and low drones of “Chloroform” are less a warning than signals a snooty satire on bedroom-eyed R&B as “Oblique City” is a taunting workout with bleating synths reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem”s “All My Friends,” another disillusioned riff on fame. (It’s not that, lyrically, they’re saying much in-depth, but thematically it’s a rich riff.)
Thomas Mars” vocals remain as note-bendingly imperfect, like when he trots out flourishes of falsetto on “Cool” and epic standout “The Real Thing.” He stands back through the thoroughly experimental title track; it”s on this seven-minute meander we hear the quartet paint with a broader brush, letting the song build up instead of jumping right in on beat one. Surely, Glassnote would have been sweating were tracks like it the bulk of “Bankrupt!”, but then they counter with easy (if unremarkable) songs like “Don”t.” “Bankrupt!” is at times a challenge, and sometimes a breeze, and that should be enough to satisfy fans still around for the “Wolfgang Amadeus” after-party.