Phoenix, Phoenix has been relatively silent, not touring at all since their last show at Madison Square Garden. While I caught them recently at an extremely intimate Williamsburg club tune-up before playing Saturday Night Live, it wasn’t until recently that I had the chance to sit down and give the full album a listen. Opening with their lead single “Entertainment” shows Phoenix back in stride with an uptempo electronic pop nugget that sounds as if Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix grew up a bit in the four years since the last album. The whole album in fact takes all the sounds and themes of their previous effort and adds variety from the high Eastern influenced strings of “Entertainment” to the drop out of all instruments aside while Thomas Mars sings to “Put my name on your list/ S.O.S. in Bel Air”, a move that sounds all too Phoenix if you catch my drift.
The album as a whole is extremely strong. Listeners who expect the same Phoenix will be pleasantly surprised by the next step in the band’s evolution. While “S.O.S. in Bel Air” and “The Real Thing” are obvious spiritual successors to earlier songs like “Long Distance Call” and “If I Ever Feel Better”, the band manages to spice things up enough to make the tracks feel fresh and exciting. “Trying to Be Cool” brings a new almost Cure-esque ethereality to Mars’ typical high nasal crooning. Title track “Bankrupt!” brings an instrumental electronic build up to a more introspective portion of the album which we snap out of almost instantly with “Drakkar Noir” and “Don’t” following shortly after as more evidence of Phoenix’s mastery of catchy electronic pop shines through on the two tracks. Even closing track “Oblique City”, although at times sounds cluttered, is a strong showing for the band that sees the French boys pushing the envelope of what they have collectively produced up until this point.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the album is the inclusion of 71 bonus takes of songs that are included on the deluxe edition which truly show the process that went into the making of this album and all the various ideas and stages each song went through. With their creative process on such brazen display, it is even easier to relate to and subsequently appreciate the songs that did make the cut. The new album is available now on Glassnote Records and the band is going to be touring the US this summer, hitting most major festivals. You can find out when they are coming to a stage near you at their website, www.wearephoenix.com/tour