Phoenix Bankrupt!

When a band strike upon a winning formula, it's tough not to duplicate it in some form. Much of the blueprint of Phoenix's fifth album, Bankrupt!, follows its successful 2009 critical and commercial predecessor, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. From the grand opening numbers to the instrumental interludes mid-album, this new record looks to be travelling down a similar road, but sonically takes a different turn. Glossy synths override guitars throughout the record, which makes for the smooth entrance of faux-Asian opener "Entertainment," with its Korean-/Chinese-inspired scales, or highlight "S.O.S. In Bel Air," the album's best pop song. Pre-interlude, Bankrupt! is trekking along the right path; it's a futuristic journey into a foreign place for Phoenix, akin to a soundtrack for an updated Lost in Translation. But things quickly go off the rails once it spirals out of the dizzying interlude of flashing synths, losing its sense of melody and purpose. Whereas lead singer Thomas Mars's voice soars atop the first half, he begins to lag on "Chloroform" and the aimless "Don't." It isn't until closing number "Oblique City" where things pick up once again, but by then it's too late and you've lost patience and returned to the beginning. If Wolfgang was the stadium anthems, Bankrupt! is the frantic strobe lighting that goes with said big venues: boisterous, bright and ambitious. But, ultimately, it's still there to assist the show's main attraction: the hits. (Glassnote)