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Artist: Interpol

Album: Interpol

Label: Matador

Review date: Sep. 7, 2010


Interpol - "Lights" (Interpol)


Say this about Interpol: It’s a band consistent in its songs. If you aren’t familiar with its music, put all four of its albums on shuffle and try to determine which ones point to which segment of their career. I don’t think most people would be able to tell the difference. Sure, some of Interpol’s songs are stronger than others, but each of its albums has its fair share; after going through its entire oeuvre, there are such glaring similarities between the group’s most successful material in the arrangements, the breaks, even how the songs begin and end, that there is virtually no room for variance in its rent-to-own formula of dark rock. Thus, its albums rely on a proper balance in the way they are sequenced; one could attribute the overall failure of Our Love to Admire, the stalled major label album from 2007, to how the songs were put together – too many sad ones up front, too alienating and too specific in those selections, which crashed into “The Heinrich Maneuver,” an upbeat and unfortunately-titled single that few claimed to understand.

That move sent the band scurrying between coasts, canceling tours, and ultimately dropping out in a way not seen since its members’ anonymous days clubbing at Don Hill’s or Brownies, when they’d play third of fourth, despite their tireless efforts flyering light poles and staring longingly at people having fun at 85A’s soul music party. This, from the band that stood out as singular icons in New York City’s rock scene for the past decade, far beyond the crumbling slop-pose poise of the Strokes, or the semester abroad acid flipouts of Animal Collective or Yeasayer or Dirty Projectors. If anything, Interpol is now most easily perceived as the brooding older siblings of Vampire Weekend, steeped in Bret Easton Ellis levels of detachment and gossip feuds, and ultimately left to figure it all out on their own (and leaving the good-looking baggage on the similar laments of the audience).

So, after a misstep, Interpol is back home on Matador for its fourth full-length, a self-titled affair more confident and consistent than the reputation-basing debut, Turn on the Bright Lights. Once Interpol was completed, bassist Carlos “D” Dengler – arguably the most famous among them – announced his departure from the band. The album bears his urbane marks; moreover, it’s an acknowledgement of a mistake, which the group smartly leaves for you to find.

No longer given the luxury to coast, Interpol turns things around with three strong openers, the best of them being “Summer Well,” a slightly rueful turn to “Heinrich’s” brighter melodies. Two of the band’s biggest and most memorable singles charge forth soon after, in the funereal New Romantic drive of “Lights,” possessing a big, keening hook and an even bigger chorus, and “Barricade,” a soaring ache of a gloom-rocker in the drums-first tradition of “PDA.”

But it’s Interpol‘s second half that helps to cement this one as the group’s quintessential album, a make-good attempt at reclaiming the gravitas the group jettisoned with 2004’s Antics. From “Always Malaise (The Man I Am)” to syrupy closer “The Undoing,” the group mounts a sinister, mournful five-song suite that places its strength in the voice of frontman Paul Banks. You may be reminded of Radiohead circa OK Computer by the reach of these songs, the depressive chord changes, and the insistence of rhythm, done in a way that few have been successful with since that band’s call-up moment. More than anything, it’ll remind you that, with all due respect to the rest of the band (now claiming Dave Pajo and Secret Machine Brandon Curtis), it’s Banks’ band from here on out, and the music will live and die on his good word. While the band’s celebrity rose in the wake of national tragedy, Interpol will remind you that it’s time to be worried again.

By Doug Mosurock

Other Reviews of Interpol

Interpol

Turn on the Bright Lights

Our Love To Admire

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View all articles by Doug Mosurock

Find out more about Matador

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