Phoenix - Bankrupt!
Post-breakthrough return is brash, unapologetic, full of pomp and self-assured tunes
Bankrupt! begins with the brilliant bravura of ‘Entertainment’, a blitzkrieg of uptempo synths and guitars. It’s the kind of epic, contemporary new wave swagger that goes down just swell when performed in front of huge summer festival crowds.
A vigorous statement of intent, it says Phoenix are aiming for the rock’n’roll stratosphere, and while this opening track is sheer grandstanding, they intend to back it up with an album of equally-triumphant and emphatic crowd-pleasers. And the thing is, they manage to pull it off.
Eschewing subtlety for robust, amped-up, meaty hooks, the French band’s fifth album and first since 2009 is their most nakedly direct. They have long since ironed out the delicate creases and kinks that were pervasive on United, their charming curio debut from 2000, but this album still feels like the continuation of a natural progression. It has a real cocksureness and brio, dripping with a tangible sense of purpose and reeking of blockbuster.
Such brazen ambition may not appeal to everyone’s taste, but at least the quality of songs matches their lofty goals. ‘Trying to Be Cool’ has a perfect sunkissed groove, a seductive refrain (‘tell me that you want me’, purrs Thomas Mars) and an intoxicating insouciance that is impossible to resist. Ditto for ‘SOS in Bel Air’, albeit via more arm-flailing fashion than languid swaying. The louche downtempo grooves of the title track and ‘Chloroform’ regale with a grandiose levity: they are deft but still have an anthemic quality.
And if you think there is a brief respite, ‘Don’t’ and ‘Oblique City’ return to those pneumatic synths, reminiscent of Tears for Fears in terms of earnest keyboard-driven radio-approved pop rock. Bankrupt! is brash, unapologetic, full of pomp and self-assured tunes. This is the sound of a band trying to be as big as they possibly can, and done with such panache, the listener will want to be there with them.