Rock stardom ain’t what it used to be…
Alfred Soto: Building on the sort of riff we used to call oriental (and treated!), toughened by power chords, these crypto-popists edges closer to first principles, the most important of which happens to share the song title. The vocalist still sounds like he coats his throat with several teaspoons of margarine though.
Anthony Easton: Phoenix recently spent more than six figures to purchase and then ship the console that Jackson’s Thriller was made on from Los Angles to Paris. One member of Phoenix lives in Los Angeles, three members of the band live in Paris. Considering that the studio situation must be better in LA, would it not have made more sense to have the console shipped on the back of a pick-up truck to somewhere in LA, and have the other members of the band fly in?
Crystal Xia: The way that Thomas Mars pronounces his words just sits comfortably with me. My two favorite moments in “Entertainment” in regards to how Mars delivers his vocals: 1) How he uses repetition to great effect, first the “fold it” in “1901” and now the “low”, “long”, and “I love” that transitions into “I notice” and 2) That last “I’d rather be alone” which comes about after a chorus of voices and launches right into that crazy explosion of drums and synths. It’s almost a cheap way to get the listener to want to dance, but it works. The weird thing about Phoenix songs is that they often sound like they’re pieced together from different parts, and “Entertainment” is no exception. The transitions here don’t work as well as a few from WAP, but those parts taken by themselves each have fantastic little hooks.
Patrick St. Michel: I oh so badly want to just give myself to this the way I did to every song on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, because so much on “Entertainment” sounds great. The arena-ready opening, the reserved jog of the verses, Thomas Mars’ ability to make repeated words sound so alluring. But come the chorus — usually the part of the song Phoenix sticks — and it seems undercooked, the band pulling up when momentum was just getting on their side. I find myself enjoying this, but a bit more reluctant to really embrace it.
Ian Mathers: “Long Distance Call” and “1901″ were both great first singles, both on their own merits and as advance notice of what the albums they came from would be like. If that trend is continuing, it sounds like Bankrupt! is going to be even more thickly processed than Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, lacking the indelible choruses of the last couple of albums, but pleasant enough and maybe — hopefully — a “grower.”
Brad Shoup: Phoenix puts me in the back of an ’85 Honda Civic, blissing out to oldies radio, frustrated that I couldn’t pick up on the lyrics. Thomas Mars’ AI tenor just doesn’t impart many intelligible words, which makes him a sort of late-indie touchstone. This is my fav single from them to date, “Princess of China Girl” feel and all; they really develop that introductory melody, and the chorus is similarly drawn out unto poignance. I think I’m hearing acoustic guitar smelted and melded to some of the kick; I guess the producer has to earn his keep.
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: For the most part, there is a certain charm in hearing Thomas Mars’ matter-of-fact youthful voice over music as big as “Entertainment”, especially when he purrs over patiently palm muted verses. However, a tinge of prepubescence creeps in over the muscle-music chords and neon grandeur of the chorus and middle-eight, leaving one wanting a bit more vocal force from Mars. Still, this sounds huge regardless of the mouse in the machine — those “woah”s are just, well, woah.
Scott Mildenhall: Loneliness has never sounded so giddy. Looking at the lyrics, “Why you pretending that you wanna let go?” is a question that can easily be taken as rhetorical, but in listening to it that doesn’t come through; all and any pathos totally concealed in a “Hong Kong Garden” of freedom.