August 21, 2010

Album Review: Interpol's Interpol

For the better half of the 2000s, Interpol were the darlings of indie rock and a young act whose future seemed unquestionably promising. Their debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights, is arguably one of the best albums of the 2000s while their follow-up, Antics, avoided the pitfalls of a sophomore slump. In 2007, Interpol left indie label, Matador Records for iconic major label, Capitol Records to release Our Love to Admire. With publicity being pumped into the band by the tenfold, Interpol booked a very successful small arena tour and even opened up for the likes of U2. Despite all the buzz and publicity, Our Love to Admire was not Interpol's best, receiving mixed reviews across the board from critics and fans alike. Following initial support of the album and becoming somewhat of an afterthought, the NYC post-punk outfit retreated quietly into the background of the music world, as each member resided to their own personal project before recommitting themselves.

While the band eventually reconvened last year to work on their latest and self-titled release, everything that has happened since Interpol put the finishing touches on the album has changed the foundation of the band altogether. For starters, bassist Carlos D, whom some say is responsible for christening Interpol with their signature sound, amicably left after completing this album simply because he got tired of playing bass. Then, news arrived that their big money contract with Capitol Records was a one-and-done deal and Interpol would return home to Matador. In a nutshell, the Interpol of 2010 is now a very different band outside of the fact that they're launching version 2.0 from the same foundation where they got their start.

Since Interpol emerged, melancholy moods and gloomy themes have cast a dark cloud over the band's music. Unfortunately on each sequential release, those images began to feel a bit more contrived and created for the sake of being a great marketing schtick. Perhaps Interpol's struggles with skyrocketing fame, the music industry and staying relevant since Our Love to Admire have reopened old wounds and calloused their exteriors. On Interpol, the darkness engulfing each track is just as genuine as it was on the band's debut. The album opens with "Success," which is Paul Banks' kiss off to his critics in which he reveals hiding a well kept secret that will put him back on top of his game. From there on out, that secret unveils itself. "Memory Serves" is a mid-tempo song of lust and a downward spiral into self-deprecation and self-pity while standout, "Lights," is one of Interpol's most grisly love songs in quite some time. As the track creeps into an epic dirge of low key guitars and deep bass lines, Banks conjures up a troubling story about a dangerous, controlling and albeit, violent relationship that doesn't seem to fare well for the narrator's lover (or more apty appropriate stated: victim.) It's difficult to believe Banks would approach a real life relationships in such a brooding, disturbing manner, yet it's uncomfortably reassuring that his knack for ghastly songwriting has not fleeted him.

It's not to say Interpol doesn't contain the slightest hint of an upbeat note or a verse you'd feel comfortable sharing with a significant other, either. "Summer Well" and lead single, "Barricade," invoke the more danceable post-punk bass rhythms fans amid lovelorn lyrics readily heard on Antics. It's during these two moments where Carlos D's departure will sorely be missed after this album. Unlike Our Love to Admire which relied heavily on over-produced orchestrations to magnify the band's climactic build-ups, Interpol ditches the theatrics and fills the gaps with layers of intricate guitars, vocals and keys that spiral beautifully around the emotions in Paul Banks' lyrics. The album's one-two punch conclusion of "All of the Ways" and "The Undoing" is a great example of this, especially in the latter where Banks' merciful pleas for affirmation drifts off into the distance amid a sea of perfect-pitch darkness.

While Interpol hardly includes an obvious hit single that may have been required of them on previous efforts, the collection of songs here and its emotional content is what pulls their fourth album's weight. For the first time since their debut, Interpol sound genuine and filled with energy (even if that energy moves slowly and erupts in violent climaxes along the way.) The ghost of Carlos D's bass lines still lives on in Interpol, but the consistency and confidence displayed in Paul Banks lyrics' alongside the bands ability to fill each hole that opens with a wall of sound gives the impression that Interpol 2.0 won't have any trouble carrying on without him (or replacing him.) Sometimes it takes a misstep for a band to regroup itself. While Interpol may be a transitional album for these one-time indie kingpins, it's a satisfying one that puts the NYC goth-rock outfit back in the position to easily reclaim their success.

Interpol's Interpol will be released September 7, 2010 on Matador Records.

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