Phoenix – Bankrupt! (Review)


It’s not very often that a band can burst into the American popular consciousness with their fourth studio album, but Phoenix is an exception to this theory.  While previously popular in Europe, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the band’s fourth album, gave them almost instant success and airplay in the United States.  Hits like “Listomania” and “1901” are still well known and helped to create what I would call one of the most well-rounded albums of 2009.

The Versailles-based band’s primary spoken language, remarkably, isn’t even English, yet the music they make is surprisingly poetic and poignant.  The success of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix propelled them to multiple enormous shows (including a perhaps premature headlining slot at Lollapalooza) and veritable super-stardom.  After a band reaches such heights, the next album is always a telling experience.  That’s where Phoenix’s Bankrupt! comes in.  Can it live up to the hype and the (probably unfair) expectations of the general public?  My answer: yes, it can.

First and foremost, Bankrupt! follows a similar pattern to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, peppering the album with almost certain hits (Radio-favorite “Entertainment”, for example) and some large instrumental sections (the first half of “Bankrupt!”).  To call everything on the album that doesn’t meet either of these criteria “filler” wouldn’t do it justice, however.  Bankrupt! flows seemingly effortlessly from track to track, mixing elements of European dance music with American/English indie rock to create a beautiful hybrid.

Like any band; Phoenix faces enormous problems coming off of such a successful album preceding Bankrupt!.  If Bankrupt! doesn’t innovate, then the band will be hailed as boring and having a lack of progression.  If Bankrupt! strays from the sound of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which most listeners have established as the quinnessential Phoenix, however, many will say they want the old music back (just like The Strokes).  The band have, however, found a happy medium between innovation and a great sound.

Bankrupt! truly shines with its tracks that probably won’t be mega-hits.  Tracks like “Trying To Be Cool” are just a little too progressive to slip into the mainstream (at least I think…only time will tell for sure) but really fit into the feel of the album flawlessly.  A lot of times I feel as if, when a band uses electronic instruments, some type of creativity is lost.  All in all, though, synthesizers are used tastefully on Bankrupt! and don’t take away from the human element of the album, but rather they add to it.

Bankrupt! is a beautiful journey for music listeners of all genres.  And while it may not be something for hard-core fans of a single genre, for those that can appreciate all types of styles, the Frenchmen of Phoenix have put together a fantastic work of art for your ears.

Rating: W-P-G-1/4

RIYL: Rooney, Of Montreal, and The Naked and Famous

Key Tracks: “Entertainment”, “Trying To Be Cool”, and “Bourgeois”

Check out our full Spotify stream of  Bankrupt! below!

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