How can you tell that sleek French synth-happy power-popsters Phoenix are diffident about the commercial breakthrough they achieved with their 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, fueled as it was by “1901”’s inclusion in a Cadillac commercial? Because now that they’ve won wealth and fame, they’ve chosen to call their fifth album Bankrupt! (V2 ***), in part to point out the hollowness of it all. And they’ve also stuck the 7 minute momentum-killing title track right smack in the middle of the 10 song collection, just so you know that life is full of miseries, when you're not hanging out with R. Kelly at Coachella.
So why is the general sense of ennui that suffuses songs like “Trying To Be Cool” and “Chloroform” not really an impediment in the end to enjoying the pleasures contained within Bankrupt!? A lot of it has to do with excitable exclamation point in the album title. The Thomas Mars led quartet can act blasé all they want, going on about “fake rituals" and acting like they feel all alone while swilling champagne at the after party. But this is a band that is very, very good at making effusively catchy bright-and-shiny pop music you can dance to, so that even when Mars is being snide and mocking a cologne-drenched jerk in “Drakkar Noir” (“How come everyone knows you before they meet you?”) the music is cheerfully ingratiating, and tough to resist.
Phoenix play the Susquehanna Bank Center on Camden on May 12. Below, "Trying To Be Cool," from Saturday Night Live.
Previously: Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket and Wilco coming to Camden Follow In The Mix on Twitter