Contrary to the album title, Bankrupt!, Phoenix might be hitting gold despite offering a different vibe and direction from its successful predecessor, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, their Grammy-winning album for Best Alternative Music with a total of721 000 copies sold in the US as of April 2013.
The concept for this synth-driven work was birthed by Thomas Mars, lead singer of the French quartet, who believes their success 4 years ago might pose an obstacle moving forward. Their desire to start on a clean slate, led them to explore “the sort of bankruptcy”, according to an interview with BBC news and explains the album’s striking name.
“Entertainment” kick-started the album with a familiar sounding oriental chime before turning into an earworm with Mars’ dreamy voice working its charm of leaving the lyrics, “What you want and what you do to me/ I’ll take the trouble that you have in mind” lingering in your head even after the song is over. It may seem that “Entertainment” is yet another typical Phoenix song with its melodious hooks, however, the song illustrates how fame has affected the band making them more recognised after their trio success “1901”, “Lisztomania” and “Fences” and how they’d rather stick to their principles than be blinded by all that fame brings, hence “I’d rather be alone”. Purposeful and more palatable to the masses compared to the other songs in the album, it’s safe to say that this hit single is almost on par with their Billboard chart topper, “1901”.
The differing point of this album compared to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, can also be seen in songs like “S.O.S In Bel Air”, which is the gratifying point of the album. The louder, dripping with heavy synths, and punctuated with pulsating drumbeats, song reaches its climax when Mars appropriately bellows: “Put my name on your list/ S.O.S in Bel Air/”.
“Trying To Be Cool” is another track to look out for, with its funky vibe and electric swirls. It seems the French do have their charm as the downtempo track showcases Mars as he coos “Tell me that you want me/ Tell me that you want me”, literally begging you to love it.
Almost every of Phoenix’s 5 albums contains a longish song that usually spans from 5 to 9 minutes which acts as an interlude.However, in the case of Bankrupt! it’s a little disappointing that its title song didn’t live up to the standard of the other interludes in the previous albums such as “Love Like a Sunset” in Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The track starts off with a low-key pulsating beat that’s shortly accompanied by an almost tranquil rhythm, slowly building up to an eccentric middle section before finally ending as a folk song, making it feel really messy and all over the place. The build up was so slow and erratic that you’re tired before you even get to the singing, which is quite a pity considering how the lyrics are so well written, “Caledonian rich and young/ Self-entitled portrait/ Court in session, justice done” poking fun of the “rich and young”.
Bankrupt! may not be as coherent as Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’s perfectly arranged flow of the tracks but it shone almost as brightly, exuding Phoenix’s charm through their catchy melodies and repetitive lyrics. This fulfills their purpose of evoking emotions out of their listeners, instead of trying to interpret their, at times, illogical songs. Was this album a failure then? It could have been a carbon copy of the previous commercial success, but that would leave no space for the band to grow creatively. Instead, with this reboot, “I’m just too glad to say no/ just too glad to say no”.
Album Name: Bankrupt!
Genre: Alternative Rock, Synthpop
Record Label: V2 Records
Release Date: April 22, 2013
2. The Real Thing
3. S.O.S. In Bel Air
4. Trying to Be Cool
6. Drakkar Noir
10. Oblique City