As the final echoes of the closing trumpet fanfare on 'The Undoing' subside, Paul Banks' final words on Interpol declare this to be "The place we're in now." Several listens later it becomes apparent that the place he's referring to is an altogether different one to that which was heralded by Turn On The Bright Lights, undoubtedly one of THE definitive long players of the previous decade. In the eight years since that record's release, the kingdom of gloom inhabited by its creators is still shrouded in as much mystery as it ever was. However, their influence on the New York music scene (and beyond) cannot be understated.
The recent departure of His Vampiric Majesty, Carlos D., from Interpol leaves a gothic black hole in a band that always seemed to be lurching towards the light while yet deeply rooted in the mire. Tellingly, on its fourth (burnt) offering, which still features the talents of Herr D, the band intermittently reins in the threatening atmospherics and even comes off a bit like R.E.M. or the Red House Painters.
It almost makes sense that Interpol have released the most polarizing record of 2010, it seems sometimes that nobody’s really agreed on them from the start. Turn on the Bright Lights gleamed at first, was beaten back under the attack of Joy Division comparisons and adolescence qualms, but held its head high during end-of-year/decade list seasons. Antics barreled through our speakers head first, once again turning heads and convincing a few misguided folks to say horribly reductive things like “America’s Radiohead,” and then Our Love to Admire arrived and, with a few exceptions, the band was beaten back on a critical level, but it also saw the best chartings of Interpol’s then middle-aged career.
After releasing a stellar debut in 2002 and a slightly lesser follow-up in 2004, Interpol seemed to misplace their focus on 2007’s muddled Our Love to Admire. They’ve reversed that downward slide at last with their fourth album, Interpol. The riffs here are grander, the rhythms more limber, and the melodies more memorably moody than they’ve been in years.
Back in black Interpol has mostly sat on the sidelines since 2007’s disappointing Our Love to Admire, so their fourth album’s eponymous title feels like a statement of purpose: “We’re back, and we’re more us than ever.” The songs just about prove it, too. Though the record meanders into aimless moping in its final third, most of the 10 tracks are bold, heavy and among Interpol’s best. Debut Turn on the Bright Lights presented pitch-black landscapes of reverb, Antics brimmed with taut, sharp hooks, and the new record fuses the two, with Paul Banks’ tight vocals wandering through the shadows.
A lot about Interpol suggests that it's a statement of purpose, from its eponymous title to the fact that it was released by Matador, where the band released its best material. There is a certain back-to-basics feel about the album: producer Alan Moulder strips away much of Our Love to Admire's lavish sheen and gives the band a more muscular attack by pushing the rhythm section to the fore -- especially fitting since bassist Carlos Dengler left the band shortly after finishing Interpol -- and the album clocks in at a relatively concise 10 songs in 45 minutes. However, like many things about this band, it's not quite that simple.
Sometimes when a band decides to self-title an album mid-career, it's to signify some grand narrative – such as Razorlight telling us that America's nasty or Blur telling us that they're really into Pavement. Here Interpol follow in their footsteps with a fourth album that suggests even the most dynamic bands can suffer a mid-career stupor. It could be that they're distracted – they've been together 10 years, and have numerous solo projects; is there more to for them to do with Interpol? Bassist Carlos Dengler thought not, when he left earlier this year to concentrate on other things (or, according to drummer Sam Fogarino, because "he really, really didn't like the bass").
Gloomy post-punk pop band Interpol didn't fare too well with their move to Capitol Records for their last album, Our Love To Admire, which many saw as a disappointment. In an effort to recapture past glories, they're back with their original label, Matador, and describe this new offering as a return to their roots. [rssbreak] On the surface, it does sound more like their earlier days, but there's something missing.
Since the early 2000s, New York’s downtown music scene has gone in and out of vogue, but something about Interpol has always stood out—and not just the fact that they keep putting out albums, unlike some of their contemporaries who have more or less disappeared. In retrospect, the band survived the Strokes’ disappointing flameout because, quite frankly, they didn’t seem like a fad. Unlike the Virgins, they don’t sprawl alongside models in fashion editorials.
One of the defining indie rock bands of the new millennium, Interpol has never really been as great as that reputation suggests. Despite being the recipient of effusive phrase from critics and hipsters throughout its decade-plus career, Interpol’s work has always been constrained by three key flaws: limited instrumental technique, frequently clumsy lyrics (“The subway is a porno”, anyone?), and what I call the Oasis Effect—that is, like the Britpop kings with their eternal Beatles fixation, it’s hard for the unconverted to accept Interpol as a distinct musical entity or anything close to genius when its music constantly reminds you of that by another band. That probably sounds a bit harsh to some of you, but I’m a firm believer in rating a group’s merits appropriately.
The impressive thing about Interpol has always been the refinement of their sound, its remarkable sense of purpose. Sure, when the band debuted, a huge share of conversation revolved around the other acts they sounded like. But no matter how familiar any of the parts were, the band had welded them together into a whole that was instantly recognizable and easy to grasp-- they'd carved out the simple, narrow box of how an Interpol song worked, and they could put it across clearly, quickly, and thrillingly.
There’s a moment at the very, very end of Interpol’s Our Love to Admire — a strong candidate for the Worst Album Art Ever award and, really and truly, the Worst Album Ever Period award, given out by… ME — wherein I heard the subtlety of debut Turn on the Bright Lights bubble up and sting my nose; I instantly did a sort of double-take-of-the-ear and skipped the track back a few times to make sure I was hearing things right. Sure enough, it’s there: it’s called “The Lighthouse,” and it foreshadowed a future free of the burdensome, trying-too-hard sunglasses-dark-pop of OLtA. Hell, it sounded like The Walkmen but maybe even better, fer chrissakes.
Inarguable fact: Interpol had the indie-rock world by the short and curlies for a relatively long period of time. Three years to be exact, the time between their debut EP, 2002’s masterwork Turn on the Bright Lights, and 2004’s Antics. During that time, they were the coolest motherfuckers on this rock. Bassist Carlos D was a fashion “icon” who kept New York hipster gossip blogs in advertising dollars for a few years.
Their future may be uncertain, but Interpol’s fourth LP is a satisfying listen for now. Ian Wade 2010 Interpol, in their own way, have had an osmosis effect on the UK in the eight years since they came to attention with 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights, during a period that historians have now come to refer as "the post-Strokes era". They’ve gone on to quietly sell over a million albums in their native US, and even charted at number two here with their previous album, 2007’s Our Love to Admire.
Anyone still nostalgically operating in a post-millenial state of revelry is bound to be disappointed by Interpol’s fourth offering – a self-titled set of tunes that retains the band’s trademark gloomy atmospherics while ditching the sprawling emotional contour that made their oldest material so spellbinding. To quote one of the group’s own song titles, there’s a pervasive sense of malaise on this record, and the distress only gets heavier as the seconds tick by; the tortured and fragile beauty persists, but any sense of panache is continually muted by the languid tempos and Paul Banks’ increasingly nasally moan. The band’s debut, Turn On the Bright Lights, was one of the best records of 2002, if not the decade, but its success can also be attributed to a revived New York scene that was busy dancing to The Strokes while healing from the tragedies of 9/11.