With a Grammy under its belt, 2009’s quintessential indie mega-band is back in action. This past week, the effervescent French foursome of Phoenix released its fifth studio album, “Bankrupt!,” as they continue to ride the wave of popularity generated by their previous LP, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.”
It would have been too easy for the band to simply recreate “Wolfgang” and keep the momentum going. Thankfully, Phoenix realized this and still managed to switch up its style a bit without alienating those new fans.
Phoenix supplants the gargantuan hooks from “Wolfgang” with more toned-down melodies. Tracks on “Bankrupt!” feature synthesizers that tend to sparkle rather than blaze, as was seen on its predecessor. In this manner, songs lose a bit of their inherent likability and may require listeners to spend more time analyzing the impressive orchestral layering.
The closest the band comes to another “1901” or “Lisztomania” is this album’s front-runner single, “Entertainment.” Lead singer Thomas Mars flaunts his standard boyish crooning over a smattering of synthesizer lines. Mars even throws in a short lyrical homage to 2009’s “Lasso” when he sings, “What you want and what you do to me.”
Album highlight “Trying to Be Cool” holds back from the full-on instrumental onslaught of Phoenix’s back catalog. Instead, it retains a sort of effortless confidence, contrary to the song’s thematic material. Background synthesizers and guitar provide a breezy atmosphere, over which Mars laments the chore of attracting a potential lover.
Phoenix does a fantastic job of resisting the urge to craft an identical sequel to the album that garnered worldwide attention. It continues to write catchy and fun electro-pop songs without confining itself to the mold of established success. The majority of “Bankrupt!” won’t lend itself to arena-wide sing-a-longs, but the band already has enough in its repertoire to hold fans over.