Phoenix ⎜Bankrupt! ⎜Glassnote ⎜US Release Date: April 23, 2013
Members: Thomas Mars; Laurent Brancowitz; Christian Mazzalai; Deck d’Arcy
Alt-rock band Phoenix grew substantially in popularity with 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Further raising the French band’s stock was a Grammy win for Best Alternative Music album. 2013’s Bankrupt! hence gains some anticipation behind it, even if it has been four years since Phoenix’s ‘big moment’. Bankrupt! Is a solid set of 10 cuts in the indie-electronic rock vein, capped off catchy choruses via frontman Thomas Mars. Never missing a beat, Bankrupt! Is a compelling follow-up to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
Single “Entertainment” proves to be an exhilarating start, characterized equally by the oriental sounding synths as well as the superb chorus. “Entertainment, show them what you do with me / when everyone here knows better / What I once refused to be / Is everything they long together / I’d rather be alone”, Mars sings enthusiastically. Well produced, “Entertainment” is the song to beat, no questions raised. “The Real Thing” possesses a driving groove much like the opener. The sound can be described as big, characterized by it electronic sensibilities. The main rub against “The Real Thing” is that despite being ambitious and consisting of the ‘pieces’, it doesn’t feel as polished or fully developed like “Entertainment”.
“S.O.S. In Bel Air” atones, sporting a quicker tempo, ultra-rhythmic nature and a great harmonic progression (most notably during the chorus). The chorus stands out as a whole, but it is the feisty vocal treatment “Put your name in your list / S.O.S in Bel Air!” that really sells it. Keeping
things ‘on the good foot’, “Trying to Be Cool” lives up to its title’s aspirations. Drenched in an ‘80s vibe (seems to be the ‘it’ trend of ’13), “Trying To Be Cool” is bright, lyrically clever, and among the elite of Bankrupt! The best line? “They teach you suffer to resist / too much intention Presbyterian / Mint julep testosterone / Tell me that you wane me…” Creative, right?
“Bankrupt!” is the set’s longest cut, clocking in just shy of seven minutes. Four-and-a-half of those minutes are dedicated to instrumental flexing, filled with ethnic music sounds, and a couple of different musical ideas (the groove/ideas change over the course). At the four-and-a-half minute mark, Mars contributes the scant lyrics that construct this number. Clever and poetic as always, “Bankrupt!” is not among the top cuts, but with little separation on an effort of this caliber/consistency, it remains an alluring audio experience.
“Drakkar Noir” (a men’s fragrance btw) restores brevity about song length, approaching only three-and-a half minutes. The synths are ear-catching and the tempo relatively quick. A clever instrumental tag proceeds the chorus. As always, Mars’s vocals are enthusiastic, evidenced by the chorus: In the jingle, jungle / jingle, junkie…. A better standard than mediocre / I watch you tumble / Jangle, jungle / jingle, jump, before you stumble / I’m just too glad to say no…” “Chloroform” is better, slowing the tempo (sort of a grinding, medium speed). It segues from “Drakkar
Noir” before establishing itself into its own entity. The chorus is by no means profound, but it is simple and effective: “My love, my love… is cruel…”
“Don’t” keeps up the momentum, opting for a quick pace and bright electronic sounds. Another well written cut, a recurring synth riff helps to shape this standout. Penultimate cut “Bourgeois” is as enjoyable as anything else while closer “Oblique City” closes jubilantly, though falls short of the glory of the stellar opener.
Overall, Bankrupt! is a fine addition to both Phoenix’s discography as well as any alternative music collection. There is plenty to appreciate and laud. The biggest quibble on this tight 10-track set? “Entertainment” is a ‘hard out’, as they say in basketball. While some of the other standouts ultimately bow to the national champion, they are great listens as well. Highly recommended.
Favorites: “Entertainment”; “S.O.S. in Bel Air”; “Trying to Be Cool”; “Don’t”