Oct 22, 2012 Web Exclusive
Following his 2009 quasi-solo album under the pseudonym Julian Plenti, Paul Banks’ self-titled release Banks reflects an important demarcation in the Interpol singer’s discography. While Julian Plenti is Skyscraper mainly consisted of songs written pre-Interpol, Banks is all new material, and is a manifestation of the quantum leap Banks has taken as a songwriter and arranger.
Interpol’s songs all stem from guitarist Daniel Kessler, leaving the others to push and pull at those initial boundaries. Freed from those constraints, Banks allows an astonishing texture to flourish without trumping songcraft, as the accoutrements he adds serve to embellish his adroit arrangements.
Opening track “The Base” finds Banks almost catatonic in his flat, somber admission that “What I drop today will be recognized as shape,” as if he’s unable to recognize himself in anything, before a spare verse finds him abjectly confessing, “Now and then I can see the truth above the lies/Now and then, oh, I feel you’re truly anaesthetized.” The track is rife with spring-coiled tension, before it’s reconciled with a sublime tangle of icy strings recalling John Cale’s Paris 1919.
“Over the Shoulder” features a minor key, near a “Born to Run” aping intro, but while Springsteen strives for bombast, Banks intones, “You only hold me as the canyon holds the stream,” yet offering equanimity as he sings, “Relax, we’re safe, that’s all that matters.”
Banks channels mid-’90s angst on the bilious “Paid for That,” name-checking Folk Implosion on the song’s sinewy guitar figure that’s a distant cousin to “Natural One,” before the song implodes into a seething cauldron of comeuppance as Banks wails with contrition, “Don’t you see that I had to pay for that/I paid for that/And now you’ll pay me back.”
The record concludes with “Summertime is Coming,” its gentle see-saw melody belying the sinister lyric, “All of it breathes into one day/Get out, you’ll get out,” recalling the death as redemption denouement “All in all is all we are” of Nirvana’s “All Apologies.” The track dissolves into spare plucks of acoustic guitar and Banks’ plaintive baritone, as he pleads, “No matter how high we set the bar/We will.” The line is imbued with utter ambivalence, and at this juncture Banks sounds equal parts disillusioned and awed at the journey he’s embarked on. Yet much of his story has yet to be written, and Banks augurs even more fitful greatness to come. (www.bankspaulbanks.com)
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Average reader rating: 10/10
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