Bankrupt! is just as content to turn out synth drenched dance tracks as trippy and lingering electronic experiments.
Review by David Feltman
Parisian indie rock outfit Phoenix has been around since the turn of the century with five albums under its belt, but it wasn’t until 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, that the band won major recognition. Wolfgang Amadeus was met with critical acclaim and graced many ‘best of the year’ lists. For that reason it’s surprising to find that Phoenix’s follow up is a departure from the sound that earned so much success.
Trading in strings for more synthesizers, Bankrupt! adopts a stronger 80s synthpop aesthete, like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode synthpop. And for a minute it’s hard to recognize the band as the same Phoenix that wrote “Lisztomania.” But the same expert songwriting and pop perfect instincts are still present. Bankrupt! is just as content to turn out synth drenched dance tracks as trippy and lingering electronic experiments.
The amount of experimentation is unexpected for an album that’s so pop centric. Right from the opening melody of “Entertainment,” the band establishes a tinkling Asian motif that seeps through the rest of the album. The melody sounds a lot like the opening of “Turning Japanese” and gets woven into the band’s classical noodlings and dance tracks alike. It’s a riff that’s so unlikely and yet so craftily utilized that it feels completely natural by the end of the album.
A glimmer of Wolfgang Amadeus still exists on tracks like “Don’t” in spite of the heavy electronic instrumentation and the writing manages to evade the sort of cheesiness often associated with the sort of 80s bands from which Phoenix is drawing inspiration. What starts as a strange and potentially goofy album develops a much grander scope. Phoenix may have been great before, but what they are doing now is more interesting.