Turn on the Bright Lights Album reviews.
Release Date: 08.20.02
Record label: Matador
A Pity We Missed it in 2002
by: bill aicher
The thing with Interpol is that just about everyone starts out any introduction to the band with overt comparisons to Joy Division, only this New York band really doesn’t sound all that much like them. Sure, there is the droning post-punk guitars and remarkably depressing lyrics, but Interpol is more akin, in my mind, to postmodern slow-core than to the early legends of post-punk. And, truth be told, one might even find more similarities to David Byrne than to Ian Curtis.
Chances are also pretty likely that if you’ve taken the time to read this review, you’ve likely read a fair share of press on their debut album by now. Released nearly a year ago now, if you’re one of those people riding the trends from one hot band to another, you could’ve even moved on by now, as Interpol enjoyed their initial popularity due to the drastic hype they’d received as one of the next “it” bands out of NYC. But that’s what’s most refreshing about this debut – the fact that Turn on the Bright Lights ultimately works as a piece which will be viewed apart from its timely hype as a largely overlooked classic of the early 21st Century.
“Untitled” opens the disc with jangly one-note monotony that’s a bit too fast to be slowcore and along with “Obstacle 1” is where most of the Joy Division comparisons likely stem from. “I will surprise you sometime / I’ll come around / when you’re down” sings vocalist Greg Banks, in that brash post-punk monotonous style; it’s one of the album’s brightest moments. And then there’s “PDA,” the track that’s one of the biggest reasons the hype monster reared its head for Interpol in the first place. It starts out harmless enough, with a straight-ahead driving rock beat but ends up sounding more like mid-career Superdrag / shoegazer pop than anything put out by Echo and the Bunnymen.
But the album’s most spectacular moments tend to float in near the end, with “Stella was a Diver and She was Always Down,” and the so-lonely-they-almost-feel-cold “Roland and “Leif Erikson.”
What’s most endearing about Interpol, however, isn’t their fantastic take on post-punk / early new-wave (in an age where remaking “classic” styles is all the vogue), but it’s their genuine embrace of the style. Unlike fellow New Yorkers, The Strokes, Interpol doesn’t seem at all to be doing the retro thing so they can be the next big thing. Instead, Turn on the Bright Lights sounds rather like it could have been plucked right out of the 80’s even if Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Talking Heads and all the rest had never even existed – yet it rings distinctly of today, with a poignancy in lyrics and an underlying attitude that make this a record that could likely help define a generation one day. 27-May-2003 11:12 PM