Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Who are Phoenix?
They’re a French alt rock band who built up a strong cult following over the course of their first four albums, before garnering mainstream attention and widespread acclaim for album number five – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – in 2009. They are: Thomas Mars (vocals), Deck d’Arcy (bass), Laurent Brancowitz (guitars) and Christian Mazzalai (guitars). Phoenix got their big break in the UK when they supported French chill-out specialists Air, and Laurent Brancowitz used to be in a band with Daft Punk.
What you need to know about Bankrupt!:
After releasing five albums in nine years, Phoenix have waited four years to follow up the successful Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. They’ve said in interviews that they wanted Bankrupt! to be more ‘experimental’ than their previous albums – which could explain the uncharacteristic delay.
What’s good about Bankrupt!
That ‘experimentation’ is evident as soon as the Oriental riff on opener ‘Entertainment’ kicks into life. It’s also evident that Phoenix have not held anything back on Bankrupt! – this is an album full of so much vibrant energy you can’t help but be swept away by it. ‘The Real Thing’, ‘SOS In Bel Air’ and ‘Trying To Be Cool’ are all dreamy, breezy and inspired pop songs which recall Tame Impala at their sumptuous best – but with the added bonus of awesome choruses and bouncing melodies.
The title track tones down the energy with slow burning keyboards and guitars, before shifting gears into some Daft Punk-esque experimentation. Over the course of its seven minute running time it moves from blissful to brooding and back again, before Mars’ vocals take over to guide it to an epic, grandstanding conclusion.
Elsewhere, ‘Drakkar Noir’ is a driving pop tune with a catchy, if slightly throwaway chorus, and shimmering synths, which lead nicely into the mid-paced and very Passion Pit-esque ‘Chloroform’.
What’s not so good?
There’s nothing much in the way of negatives, really, except to say that the relentless energy gets a bit too samey – especially towards the end. Although the sharp ‘Bourgeois’ saves Bankrupt! from ending on a low thanks to some nice shifting time signatures and a memorable chorus.
After paying their dues for nine years and then achieving huge success with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, no-one would have blamed Phoenix for playing it safe with Bankrupt! But by pushing their boundaries and experimenting with their formula they’ve made the best album of their career.