Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Record Label: Glassnote Records
Release Date: April 23rd 2013
A few months ago, I reviewed French quartet’s last (and critically acclaimed) record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which most people will remember for the very popular single “1901,” which was basically everywhere in 2009. I wasn’t even an indie fan in 2009, and I still knew this song. That’s what made me curious as to checking out the entire record, and the band’s newest album Bankrupt, which has been out for a few weeks as I write this. Don’t fret, however, for I am finally reviewing it. I’ve been listening to it the last few weeks, but I haven’t been sure as to go about writing a review for this record. After many repeated listens, I’ve finally decided to actually sit down and review it, so here goes nothing.
For starters, I had mixed feelings on Wolfgang; overall, it was a very pleasant record with some great tracks, but other tracks just bored me, in all honesty. To put it bluntly, Bankrupt! is more or less a very logical progression from where Wolfgang left off. Everything that made Phoenix great, which were synth riffs devised from 80s New Wave songs, and vocalist Thomas Mars’ signature croon. Bankrupt really doesn’t switch their formula up, and like the old saying goes, “Why fix what’s not broken?” A band like Mumford & Sons surely took note of that, but here’s where the two bands differ – Mumford & Sons hasn’t really progressed at all, while Phoenix has at least made some effort. There’s not much of one, but it’s there, nonetheless. Tracks like “Entertainment,” which is the first single from the record, “Trying to Be Cool,” and the title track showcase an interesting progression, just to name a few. Not to mention, those are just good tracks in general, but for the band, they’re definitely good tracks as well. With Wolfgang, there were some tracks I really liked, but others that just plainly didn’t do a lot for me. As a whole, I like Bankrupt a bit more, but maybe it just comes down to personal preference. With all of that being said, however, let’s take a look at Phoenix’s new album without going bankrupt, shall we?
The record begins with “Entertainment,” which is the lead single from the record, and it’s one of my favorites from the record, actually; right from the start, it has a really cool Asian synth vibe, and in fact, the music video for the song has a predominantly Asian cast. This is definitely a typical Phoenix track – very catchy synths, and Thomas Mars’ voice, like I mentioned earlier. It’s one of my favorite tracks, along with fourth track “Trying to Be Cool” is another one of my favorite tracks as well. It pays homage to 80s New Wave, as a lot of the record does, actually. This is track does what the title says, basically, too; it tries to be cool, and it does succeed. Following that is title track “Bankrupt,” which is the most interesting track on the record. This is a seven-minute instrumental with some vocals tacked on the very end. Most of the song is very quiet, and while this is an interesting song, it does tend to drag on after awhile. The title track isn’t a bad song, it just seemed to drag on for a bit too long, especially because it doesn’t quite go anywhere. The vocals towards the end are a nice touch, but it doesn’t lead into any crescendo, but rather, just ends. Fortunately, seventh track “Chloroform” is another one of my favorite tracks, because it’s a much slower track, but still just as catchy. It features a very memorable synth riff, but it’s absolutely genius. Next track “Don’t” makes these two tracks a one-two punch, so to speak. After the really enjoyable “Bourgeois,” comes the album closer, ‘Oblique City.” This is another catchy track that reminds me of New Wave, and it ends the album just as interestingly as it started, with the oddly Asian-tinged “Entertainment.” It ends quite nicely, and it ends the album on a very nice note, too.
In all honesty, this album seems to pick up where Wolfgang left off. If you aren’t familiar with the band, this is certainly an interesting record, to say the least. I’ve heard that this record hasn’t been selling quite well, but hopefully, this doesn’t make the band bankrupt. Terrible puns aside, this is a solid album. It’s nothing I wouldn’t expect from the band, but at the same time, it’s still good. They’re not pulling a Mumford and Sons, where they don’t do anything new, but they’re not alienating anyone, either. This is still plain old Phoenix, but done in an interesting way.