Review this album
Apr 23, 2013Bankrupt! is certainly a departure from their previous work, but here they fly away from the unique sound and qualities they have developed over their past couple albums towards a less distinctive and less energetic tone, which will serve to blend them in with the myriad other synth-heavy, '80s-worshipping indie acts instead of being the distinct band that their previous albums showed they could be.
With Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, this band did the near impossible and crafted a completely cohesive and endlessly catchy pop album out of many parts that, on their own, sounded odd and ill-fitting. The mixing of these pieces created an endlessly energetic piece without relying on flashy instrumentation or quick tempos. While that album was quite progressive in how each part of the album was structured and fit together and never felt like any instrument was being leaned on too much, the end result was still an accessible pop record. It meshed quite nicely into a cohesive whole while adopting many varying tempos and tones throughout. While WAP was their crowning accomplishment, much of their previous work shared some of these characteristics, and their best work equally incorporated all elements of their sound and let them complement one another rather than leaning too heavily on one sound (as their synth-heavy debut showed).
Bankrupt! loses much of the focus and effortless energy that makes their music so enjoyable. Most of the album feels like aimless meandering instead of the focused songwriting that made WAP so endearing, and the hooks that are present simply aren't all that memorable. Instead of adopting diverse sounds across each instrument and having each one complement one another, instead the entire album is based around the synthesizer & other electronic elements, which serves to leave less room for the inspired guitar and bass hooks that helped define their past work. Most of the songs simply aren't structured all that interestingly. Also, the percussion work is much more basic across the album. Together these traits combine to create a bed of music that rarely inspires, often meanders, and doesn't give the vocalist much opportunity to expertly weave in and out of the various tones like he has in past albums. It can often feel like everyone is fighting to be noticed over the synths, which leads to pieces that simply go nowhere, let alone create any sense of the momentum that was present throughout in their previous album. Either that or the guitar/bass are just providing the floor for a synth part. The inspired sense of each instrument complementing and bouncing off of one another that helped make their previous work special is nowhere to be found here.
There are a couple redeeming moments however. The best part of the album is the one-two punch of "Drakkar Noir" and "Chloroform." "Drakkar Noir" is the most energetic track on the album (although not the fastest) because of the solid interplay of a dizzying synth line and some solid guitar with some fitting vocals along with the most inspired percussion that the album has to offer. The track leads seamlessly into "Chloroform," which has a deliberately plodding pace that is used to good effect. Also, the song benefits from being practically devoid of non-electronic elements save for the last quiet minute, which avoids the clashing of instruments with electronics that hurts much of the album. These two tracks show glimmers of the variety, the complexity, and the focus of vision that made WAP so special from start to finish.
Also, the lead single, "Entertainment," feels most like a cut from the WAP sessions than anything else, but doesn't hold up to the quality of those songs either.
After listening to "It's Never Been Like That" twice, I remembered many individual hooks even though it was never a cohesive whole of an album. After listening to Wolfgang twice, I remembered most of the album and actively anticipated what was coming up next. After listening to Bankrupt! twice, very little stood out as memorable or interesting.
It is ironic that a band with this name would choose to drowse their sound and drown what made their past work special for the follow-up to their breakout album. This was their best chance to establish themselves as a innovative force in modern rock, and from my perspective, they blew it. It's sad to see a band that could've burned so bright start to fade back into the shadows shared with thousands of other bands.… Expand