New release from electropop darlings proves lasting popularity is probable

“Bankrupt” earns four out of five stars.

Parker Munson, Writer

After Phoenix made the late night TV rounds in 2009, the Parisian four-piece stole the spotlight of indie rock, and was subsequently responsible for an enormous spike in Google searches for the word “Lisztomania.” In 2010, Phoenix created their own frenzy as they made an appearance at most of the major music festivals in the United States, shared the stage with Daft Punk at Madison Square Garden and won a Grammy for the “Best Alternative Music Album” of 2009. Several years since their most successful release to date, the quartet returns with the energetic and surprisingly profound “Bankrupt!” that’s sure to give “Wolfgang Amadeus” a run for it’s money.


At first listen, "Bankrupt!" plays like a party playlist, full of easy-to-listen-to pop tracks with lyrics that fly somewhat under the radar, secondary to the music. However, with a closer look at the liner notes, it's clear that Phoenix is actually trying to tell us something. After stepping into the limelight and taking their place on many “Best Albums of 2009” lists, Phoenix is bearing the burden of notoriety that all great groups must deal with at some time or another.

One of the album’s slower tracks, "Trying To Be Cool," plays similarly to MGMT's "Time To Pretend," echoing the struggle between the life of the rich and famous and desiring normalcy. A wall of pulsing synths, crunchy guitar riffs and resounding drum fills provides the platform for "Oblique City" which continues the theme as frontman Thomas Mars ponders the shallowness of popularity, "Coca-Cola, beaten up bottles / Is there anything else?" and decides to defend himself from the powers that be as he calls his listeners to action, “Will you join me versus wrong / Come on, come out and get me.”


Phoenix has certainly succeeded in becoming one of the biggest names in alternative music, but the very fact that they fear the fate of becoming nothing more than a flashy brand name suggests that — despite the Cadillac commercial — they’re in the game for much more than the money.

The album’s first single, “Entertainment,” speaks to the manipulation the industry can have on artists. As Mars laments, “Entertainment / Show them what you do to me,” his dissatisfaction is made clear as he concludes, “I’d rather be alone.” This comes somewhat ironically from a man who spends most of his time swallowed up in a sea of screaming fans and is therefore not all too convincing. Regardless, it’s clear Mars is undergoing some kind of therapy as thousands of faithful concertgoers belt out with him, “I’ll take the trouble that you have in mind.” Perhaps the rock veterans still have some growing pains, but they’re taking it all in stride.


Fans of “Wolfgang Amadeus” will be pleased to find that “Bankrupt!” follows the same structure of songwriting that produced hit tracks such as “1901” and “Lisztomania,” providing catchy hooks and choruses that are just waiting to get stuck in your head. Furthermore, they have followed through with the same pristine level of production quality. Even though it may lack the abundance of standout tracks previous Phoenix albums have, it certainly sits well among their established discography and has revealed a more vulnerable side of Phoenix, bringing symmetry to their collection.

“Bankrupt!” is both expected and surprising. Expected, because it would not be a Phoenix album if it didn’t at least get your head bobbing. Surprising, because it challenges the very popularity the band has obtained. It’s unclear as to whether or not this is the beginning of a new Phoenix. The album name has us guessing as to whether or not this is the end of Phoenix as we’ve know them, or simply the start of something better. Either way, “Bankrupt!” certainly has the potential of finding itself among “Best of 2013” lists.

0 0 votes
Article Rating