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Interpol - Our Love To Admire

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Artist: Interpol

Album: Our Love To Admire

Label: Capitol

Review date: Aug. 14, 2007

There's nothing wrong with Our Love To Admire, not a bit. But Interpol painted themselves into a corner, on two excellent albums before this one, by making it clear that the corner was where they liked it. Their 2002 debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, drew power from its myopic worldview; it was a New York album by incident of chronology, because it was made at a time when New York was still shellshocked and spooky, but it was small, dark and local in a way that made its near-obsessive technical expertise expressive and its dourness oddly inviting. If Antics was less brooding and less tentative, its songs still circumscribed themselves — even the most expansive ones sounded like dreams of escape. Interpol posterized an urban estrangement never quite replicated by their followers or predecessors, and in doing so seemed to fix themselves there, to sacrifice the right to ever cheer up.

Interpol is still very much Interpol — and "cheer up" is putting it very, very strongly — but their third album finds them exploring what else that can mean besides small, dark and local, and that alone feels weird. They do it carefully, but with unmistakable confidence; their expertise, though the same size, is ambitious where it used to be antisocial. Our Love To Admire has songs that stretch past the accessibility of Antics, others that surpass the jittery introspection of Turn on the Bright Lights, but it takes no special risks, makes no real unexpected moves. The enlargement is harder to pinpoint than that, though Paul Banks's lyrics offer a good place to start. His turn toward the epic in "Pace is the Trick" ("I've seen love / And I follow the speed of the starlight"; "And to all the destruction in man / And to all the corruption in my hand") and "Pioneer to the Falls" ("Your heart makes me feel, your heart makes me bold / For always and ever I'll never let go") is unmistakable — and yet these two most faithfully illustrate the band's familiar claustrophobic sound.

Banks's lyrics have always borne a certain opaque, fanciful yearning, but they were always much more subdued too, both in their descriptive aloofness and in the mix itself. Here it's the rhythm section — the infinitely nuanced skeleton that makes Interpol more interesting than their soundalikes (observe drummer Sam Fogarino's meticulous control on "Pioneer") — that takes the back seat most often while Banks, more lusty, less paranoid, courts subjects that would make his old narrator blush. This is more troublesome than his celestial-sized reveries, not in terms of taste but in terms of persona. Is it the singer's self-congratulatory jadedness or the infectious swagger behind it that makes "Rest My Chemistry" sound so foreign and decadent? What do you make of a song called "No I in Threesome" from a band whose humorlessness is all but legendary?

Still, the lyrics aren't the issue, just as the strings and the oboe and the move to Capitol and the abandoned red-white-and-black color scheme aren't the issue. Familiarity breeds contempt, but that's not the issue either, because in a strange way Our Love To Admire isn't familiar enough. The quality of the album isn't the issue, it's the qualities, the contradictions, the duplicity: it's what makes it as durable a listen as ever, but oddly empty when it comes to empathy. Sunshine warped this record, not in the realization but in the conception. It reads like a revision rather than an elaboration, like the band opted to tamper with its elemental makeup instead of articulating a feeling, a desire, a place. Only the rare great record does both at once, but it's not clear that this one does either.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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