I plumped for Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix largely because in Lisztomania Phoenix had created the sort of valedictorian anthem that wasn’t so much a reference to anything from The Strokes’ debut or the small handful of momentary triumphs from that debut Franz Ferdinand record or the mighty happiness of Wilco’s Heavy Metal Drummer as it was capable of holding hands with all of them, tagging along…
I think we want to like Phoenix because there’s some novelty in the band being this Gallic pop sensation, it gives the group the apparent sense of mystery that, frankly, isn’t actually there. We’re allowed to feign some mock-surprise at finding out they’re French. Wow, they don’t sound French. How interesting. (When it’s not really).
Up to and including Wolfgang, the band’s fourth album, Phoenix was flying. Pretty much. But it was all rather samey – we wouldn’t like The Postal Service if they kept making same-sounding albums. Actually, probably a big chunk of the fans would…
So here we have Bankrupt! which I can only assume has an exclamation to imply, in some ironic, smart-ass sense, that the band is well aware you could attach the words spiritually or artistically in front of the word bankrupt if you wanted to.
It’s not that I want to, but I feel there’s nothing here I haven’t heard before. And there’s nothing here I need to hear again. And there’s nothing here worth hearing in a must-have/must-hear kinda way. There’s no valedictorian pop-anthem, there’s no song that offers anything under the surface. This is all scratch-n-sniff pop music with meticulously ironed creases. It’s dressed up nice but it doesn’t know how to dance.
The songs ride on synths in the hope that will attach them to something. And it does – it attaches them to something hackneyed, cloying and so desperately hip to not be exposed as being so completely faux. When that’s exactly what this is. Empty-gesture stuff. Faux.
It’s French for false.