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updated: 4/25/2013 6:26 AM

Phoenix returns with another strong album

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  • Phoenix, "Bankrupt"

      Phoenix, "Bankrupt"

 
Associated Press

Phoenix, "Bankrupt!" (Glassnote)

The four Frenchmen known as Phoenix continue to refine their nonpareil synthesis of dance pop and glam rock on their fifth album "Bankrupt!"

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Marked again by pristine production, miniature symphonies emerge during the transitions and swashes of melody ascend on each chorus.

As polished as the music is, singer Thomas Mars' nonchalant voice is the band's defining element. Railing off inner monologue lyrics about Scandinavian leather, "Mint Julep testosterone," the Rosetta Stone and pesticides, his words act mostly as vehicles to sing along with.

And you'll want to. Even if nothing reaches the pure pop monstrosity of "1901" or Lisztomania" from the group's last album, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," potential hits abound. Lead track "Entertainment" picks up right where those left off. "Chloroform" splits the difference between ballad and banger, a perfect tonic for drifting away while stuck in traffic. Subverting its title, "Trying to Be Cool" glides effortlessly on a floral neon groove.

"Bankrupt!" is mostly Phoenix getting better at what it does: firing off populist-themed sure shots that won't get out of your head. But subtle shifts in the formula resonate. An acoustic guitar trickles through "Bourgeois." A blizzard of synth glitter washes out the title track. And an occidental pulse runs through "Entertainment."

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