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Album Review | SYNTH-ROCK

Phoenix, ‘Bankrupt!’

According to the New Yorker’s “Notes and Comments,” Phoenix lead-singer Thomas Mars lives in the West Village but was raised in Versailles. To record “Bankrupt!,” the band’s fifth album, the band bought the console used for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on eBay and shipped it to Paris. As on 2009’s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” the elite pedigree of these bright, well-mannered Frenchmen shows in their impressive aural plumage. Last time, they balanced their cheesy synthesizers against light-but-tight rock guitar; this time, the synths dominate from the opening fake-Chinese riff, delivered with the high-end distortion associated with cheap Casio synths. The rock cool is maintained through the driving beats that rarely let up; through Mars’s pliable tenor, which comes across as detached and tender; and through the surprising song structures, which can sound catchy and complex at once, like on “Bourgeois,” in which Mars croons, “Bourgeois! . . . You could be almost anything!” How Franco-American can you get? (Out Tuesday)

ESSENTIAL “Bourgeois”

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