Music, Print, Reviews April 16, 2013

Review: Phoenix – “Bankrupt!”

by James Garcia

phoenix bankruptPhoenix is such a delight. If you are having a crappy day and you need something to pick you up, and keep you up, try out their new album Bankrupt!, which is due out the week of April 22nd.

It’s been four years since their last release and while it may not aspire to the heights of their hit 2009 record, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, it does have a lot of what made us fall in love with them. Their danceable keyboard and pop-synths are enticing and reminiscent of overly-cheery educational programs on ‘90s PBS (in a good way). Reading Rainbow-esque perhaps.

Right off, “Entertainment” shows off their signature fuzzy bass, poppy keyboards, and palm-muted guitar combination. I think it tells us they haven’t changed too much from their last album, and that it’s okay to keep doing what works. And it does work.

Phoenix hails from Versailles, France, where they formed in 1995. Interestingly, the guitarist Laurent Brancowitz was in a band with the members of Daft Punk before he joined the group. There is lots of good dance music coming out of France, n’est-ce pas?

The title track, “Bankrupt,” is almost entirely instrumental, crescendoing into spastic Postal Service inspired bleeps and bloops. It’s fun. And then it suddenly drops off into a relaxing drift down a lazy river with vocalist Thomas Mars swooning to us on a warm April afternoon, complete with a warm cup of auditory green tea.

“Chloroform” may be the edgiest song on the album, with patterns similar to the Wolfgang single “1901.” With this song you almost remember there was a time when Phoenix was less poppy and more post-punk. But the lyric “Is it up to you?” along with the song title suggests something a little darker than the tinkly Legend-of-Zelda-forest keyboard riffs may have you believing.

“You lost your mind on a cruise ship,” sings a lyric from the track “Bourgeois.” It’s an awkward word that they pleasantly worked into a song. The record ends with “Oblique City,” a faster-paced number that rounds the album out, finishing up on a good note. It’s almost sad when it fades out.

Bankrupt! can stand just fine on its own, but I’d recommend putting it on random with the rest of their albums to give it a bit more variance. It’s a great listen, but unless you’re trying to have a completely lackadaisical afternoon, you may want to add in some of their past songs to get the blood pumping a bit more.

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