Release Date: April 23, 2013
Review by: Sean Kayden
Phoenix is a band that should have been popular many years ago. All their albums are solid, but it wasn’t until 2009 when they released, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” that they became the premier band at the time. After much success, winning a Grammy, and intensive touring, the band took a well-deserved break. Fans long awaited their follow-up to what is considered their finest record to date. Four years later, the French alternative synth-pop group is back with their fifth studio record entitled, “Bankrupt!” With the inclusion of keyboards and drum machines, their latest endeavor is pure pop bliss as they’ve completely strayed away from their earlier days of more alternative-rock friendly tracks. Phoenix sounds bigger than ever with “Bankrupt!” but bigger doesn’t always mean better. While the songs here may never have the big hooks found on, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” there’s still plenty to appreciate here. From start to finish, the ten snyth-heavy tracks are cashmere soft, glossy as a new car, and smooth as frozen yogurt. However, that’s what you come to expect from Phoenix. However, if one has expected everything by the time you reach the end, it kind of leaves you wondering if you were really taken by the album at all.
The record kicks off in a huge away with the first single, “Entertainment.” The catchiest song off the album is loud and in your face. The chorus just hits you like a freight train as it explodes with a frenzy of multi-guitar sounds and synthesizers. Following the grand opener is “The Real Thing,” a somewhat slow track that never is great during some moments and boring in others. Oddly enough, the listener will be going from the fastest track off the record to the slowest. “S.O.S In Bel Air” is another all over the place track. Flashes of greatness appear but when it slows down, it completely throws the song off keel. It feels more like a prototype track that unfortunately didn’t get all the kinks worked out because underneath, you realize how great this sound could have been. My favorite song is “Drakkar Noir,” which kicks off the second half of the album in a very cool way. Phoenix slightly changes course a bit, while the synths are just as frenetic as ever, the paring with the vocals just work so incredibly well together. Another truly dynamite track is “Chloroform.” It’s a very warm track, the most sensitive song in Phoenix’s collection of brand new material. Strangely so, it would have been a great closer because while it may not be the song you’re dancing to this summer, it definite fits the bill while the sun sets leading to a perfect nightcap.
Keeping with this trend of all the songs in the second half out doing the first half, “Don’t” is yet another true gem from Phoenix. I tend to like the songs that run a bit slower while displaying a nice and steady flow. I feel as if Phoenix really hits their stride in the second half, but is it too late for redemption for a rocky start? “Bourgeois” has indie movie soundtrack written all over it. The song fades in and fades out throughout its near five minutes and has a completely reflective vibe latching on to it. The abovementioned track is easily another winner from Phoenix. The final track belongs in the first half of the album. Sure, it’s filled with kinetic energy and one that rivals “Entertainment” as the catchiest song here. As a closer, it doesn’t fit the bill, one that belongs to “Don’t” or “Chloroform.” By the end, I felt like there’s one half of a great album here. The other half, while not egregious by any means, just didn’t have this wow factor I was hoping for. With the exception of “Entertainment,” the first half of the album is surprisingly ordinary. This becomes a bit of a problem since I always felt Phoenix specialized in anything, but the ordinary. Luckily, the second half is quite special, but for some it may not justify the rather uninspiring first few songs.
Grade: 7.7 out of 10
Published by Mountain Views News on April 27th, 2013