“Interpol” – ‘Interpol’ [Joint Review]
‘Interpol’s’ “Interpol’ had the lethal potentiality to be another “The Suburbs” – fence-sitter album delivered by world-renowned band ‘Arcade Fire’. The fourth self-titled studio-album from ‘Interpol’ threatens to be the last culmination from the pessimism-plus team that delivered such awe-inspiring tracks as “Untitled”, “Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down” and “PDA”. Not without mentioning: one of the best debuts of the noughties – “Turn On The Bright Lights” – left me reeling childishly like a brat with too much candy. And now all of this is rumoured to be coming to its unfortunate – nevertheless, inevitable – end, with the departure of percussionist ‘Sam Fogarino’ . Side projects from ‘Paul Banks’ [lead] and ‘Sam Fogarino’ have been hinting-at such suggestions for a while, now. But with albums like “Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper”, and ‘Magnetic Morning’, my scepticism-metre is up full-brow as to how their success will be divvied up and marginalised as they niche themselves apart.
It would be a sad end – I’ve grown up with these guys. I believe I even introduced them to my counterpart. And just when things were getting interesting…
Back ’02, I found a folder titled (of all things) Untitled, on a computer desktop I happened to be working on intermittently. Intrigued, but otherwise bereft of sentiment, it was with the what-the-hell!-why-not? mentality that I set myself a new playlist and fell in love with “Untitled” – but most especially, “Hands Away”. It wasn’t til two, three years later, that I stumbled upon them again and finally got hold of their details. At the time, I didn’t know who or what ‘Interpol’ were, other than the International Criminal Police Organisation. Subsequent years passed: I got my amplifier and my speakers; bought “Turn On The Bright Lights”; loathed “Antics” and (no longer) despised “Our Love To Admire”. Then a three-year long drought followed, and I was without for a long time. The blog started, rumours of a follow-up were anticipated. Low and behold, here we are, Sep’ 2010. And what is there to say other than I’m pleased?
One would be hard-pressed to find a listener unacquainted, least of all oblivious, to ‘Interpol’. Their unique indie-rock style, characteristically downtrodden, is the result for much adolescent upheaval and unrest. Lyrics enthralled in dark, sombre, simplistic melody so well-thought and vocalised by ‘Banks’ deserve a Nobel-laureate of some kind. Okay. Maybe nothing that big. But just a handshake and a nod from the Right People. When it all went downhill for “Antics”, I felt it picked up with “Our Love…” To surmise “Interpol” as epic would be an overstatement, though; sound canny to their debut, yet refreshingly “Our Love…” at the same time. Is it unfair to rate “Interpol” solely on album-context? Perhaps so.
My counterpart asked me a while back to “… decide a conundrum. “Antics” or “Our Love To Admire”? (For those of you interested, “Antics”). ‘Interpol’s’ rich, albeit limited, preceding albums have an important influence over “Interpol”, simply because we have been expecting something worthwhile these three-years to top the original follow-ups. On this sort of scale, with this sort of context, “Interpol” doesn’t even come close to their debut – but with that said, it is a striking improvement from “Antics” and a brothers-in-arms comparison with “Our Love…” There. Album context sorted.
“Interpol” isn’t offering anything different, however – whether listeners are looking for new-directions or classic-specificity is a personal opinion. But I feel the gnarly, surfing-roll and off-key twang of guitar that is so naturally theirs still remains as potent in “Interpol” as the day they debuted. Unfortunately, no seven-minute beauties, but enough tracks averaged around four- to five-minutes for one not to be displeased. Topped-off at about three-quarts of an hour it is prepped capitalistically for vinyl. And, strangely, it feels as long as it goes…
Much like “Our Love…” I feel that “Interpol” is another grower: its initial impact had me captivated, but the following day, had me fully engrossed. It’s something about their off-kilter nature that turns the world inside-out, black-and-white and just generally askew. If I had to (try and) describe them to a newcomer, I’d say they’re reincarnated ‘Beach Boys’ versed in stoic (-shit-happens…) existentialism; in other words: all the happy’s gone…
“Success” opens for “Interpol” with the touch of a top-hat, followed by rusty guitar and bass in a simplistic rhythm which persists through the entire track. Instruments appear and subside according to chorus or crescendo: a base layer literally offering ‘Banks’ vocal freedom to experiment with varying notes, highs and lows, sharps and flats. This particular feature – consistency – was relatively intact within “Our Love…” but nevertheless intermittent and unpredictable. “Success” is successful: for an opener, enticing. “Memory Serves”, “Summer Well”, follow suit, with gnarly tickle-licks and piano.
“Lights” and “Barricade”, which I heard prior to release, are the album’s leading tracks, understandably promoted as singles for this very reason. “Lights” itself is nostalgic – I feel as though it could have just as easily slotted into “… Bright Lights” as a questionable B-side (but better). A builder, with guitar, vocals, piano, and clearly audible lyrics, all conspiring to an explosive finish at 3:50. “Barricade”, however, could just as easily tag along with “Our Love…” Crescendo is instead built at the beginning, and disappointingly thwarted with the introduction of lyrics. The chorus, in coordination with the beat, aptly delivers a thoroughly enjoyable track.
Hereafter? Second-half’s are always difficult – and the final five tracks sort of teeter on a knife-edge. “Always Malaise (The Man I Am)”, “Safe Without” and “Try It On” are innovative, albeit ordinary. “Always Malaise…” and “Try It On” work with piano, while “Safe Without” is more drum-kit percussive. Guitar is less-so dominant for all.
“All Of The Ways” is perhaps the most synthetically interesting – a really uncharacteristic track with electronic blips and distant organ introducing the guitar. Then it dies off in place of deep, bellowing thuds. ‘Banks’ is again the centre of attention, and the instruments underpin his whole effort. “The Undoing”, final track for “Interpol”, I feel is lacking as a finale. If this album is seen to be a statement, a true finale for a band, then I think “All Of The Ways” better reflects the feeling of finish. It is not to say this track doesn’t pull itself together, it’s just the final crescendo doesn’t strike me as epic.
It’s reviews like these which I enjoy writing the most – about a band I love and respect wholeheartedly. “Interpol” is not what I expected it to be, admittedly; but it isn’t bad. The average-to-poor reviews of it elsewhere I feel aren’t appropriate. I tend to go against the flow, in most circumstances, whether in loving or in hating – in retrospect. And I think my prior posts really speak for themselves on follow-ups, so I dare not reiterate and paraphrase. All I hope is it’s not the end for ‘Interpol’…
Reviewer’s Pick: “Lights”
Stand-out Tracks: “Memory Serves”, “Lights”, “Barricade”, “All Of The Ways”
The Enantiomorphic God