Phoenix releases album “Bankrupt!”

By Henry Kittle

The French quartet Phoenix is known for a complex sound often categorized as alternative rock or indie pop. The band discusses a wide variety of subjects in their music such as 19th century history, classical composer Franz Liszt and the high speed trail of stardom.

Perhaps the most identifiable feature of Phoenix, aside from catchy melodies adorned with smoothly laid synthesizers, is the unique diction of lead singer Thomas Mars. His lyrics are elusive yet stirring, like the sensation felt upon waking up after a vivid dream. Mars has a mysterious way of not revealing exactly what he is trying to say, maybe because he’s not always sure, causing listeners to sift through his words and use the intricately layered music as a guide for how to feel.

On the week of April 22, Phoenix released the highly anticipated and long-in-the-making album entitled “Bankrupt!” The album consists of ten songs that are recognizably Phoenix but clearly written with a different approach in mind. In interviews leading up to the release, band members stated that the album would be a kind of experimental departure from the pop driven sounds of hit albums such as “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”. Even so, most of the tracks don’t venture too far from home.

The first song on the album, “Entertainment,” has all the ingredients of a classic Phoenix jam with an Asian how is it asianinspired twist. Phoenix opened with “Entertainment” at Coachella and received a glowing response from the packed crowd of nearly 50,000 people, many of whom were USD students.

“I thought Phoenix was hands down the best performance at Coachella. I liked the way the lead singer [Thomas Mars] connected with the audience; it really got me pumped up and it was crazy fun,” junior Aisling MacIsaac said.

“The band shows the variety of the rock genre and also hints at the direction rock is going to take in the next few decades. The way they incorporate electronic sounds without straying away from the roots of rock is something that sets them apart from other bands,” junior Conner Wiseman said.

The song “Entertainment” is groovy groovy? and captivating but not quite a hands flailing must-sing-along-and-dance type song like the hit single “Too Young” from Phoenix’s debut studio album “United”. Phoenix, like any other group of talented artists, should be encouraged to try new things, and different isn’t always worse.

Another big track on the new album is “Chloroform” which has a beat that demands nothing less than head bobbing. The track starts in a place that sounds like an Eastern fantasy land huh? until the bass, courtesy of Deck d’Arcy, jumps in and teams up with the synth, creating a hip hop style beat for Mars to rap over with his signature style.

The title track is the longest on the album, nearly seven minutes, and is a change of pace in the middle of the album. The upbeat party vibe is flooded with a mellow ambience followed by a shift to a more chaotic tone. From this point on, the keyboards rise up, over the guitars and become the center of the album: the mountain that dominates the view with Mars’ razzle-dazzle voice echoing through the background.

By the numbers, Phoenix reigns among the best selling, elite musicians of France, with the likes of Daft Punk and David Guetta. The band has created its own sound and gained a worldwide fanbase. Whether this album is as good as others, it will not define Phoenix. They simply have too many great songs.