Interpol

Interpol

Matador

Sep 13, 2010 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


As suggested by the simple title of their fourth album, Interpol pares down their sound, reducing the flourishes and touches that have crept into their music since their debut, 2002's immaculate Turn on the Bright Lights. The two followups-2004's Antics and 2007's Our Love to Admireweren't met with the same ecstatic fervor as their first record. So it would seem that an album that returns the band closer to their origins-and to their former record labelwould be a wise move. By and large, it works, and Interpol is a fine album, full of masterful musicianship and taut songwriting. But Interpol's music has always worked, by and large. The question then is: Is Interpol as good as Turn on the Bright Lights? The answer is no, and the resultant question is why?

The biggest piece of the equation is that initial spark. Whether it's the knowledge that this could be their one and only shot, or it's the excitement of working together and recording for the first time, something purely magical can happen in the studio. In bits and pieces, Interpol has found that magic on later records, but only for a song or two at a time. The magic is more present on Interpol, but it's fleeting.

Interpol's best work sounds enormous, making any room or car in which it's played instantly feel incapable of holding it. Interpol boasts "Barricades," an awe-inspiring song full of sweeping grandeur. It has palpable weight and size. Album closer "The Undoing" gives a sense of panorama, and both "Summer Well" and "Safe Without" succeed to a lesser extent, but Interpol doesn't threaten to blow the roof off.

The size has always worked off the razor-sharp edges of the music, with Daniel Kessler's guitar leading the way. Interpol restores some of the shine, but the music still feels softer somehow, the cuts not as precise.

Vocalist Paul Banks is in fine form here. Because of the larger-than-life treatment, his words have to sound grand, whether they mean anything or not. So when he intones, "I was on my way/Chasing my damage" on "The Undoing," it almost doesn't matter what it means: it's cool in its inscrutability.

The best advice for Interpol may be on the album itself, when Banks sings, "Return to old times/Full speed, half blind." They seem all too aware of who they are, and what they've done; one can almost hear them thinking as they record. Perhaps just shutting their eyes and barreling through would be the key to returning them to their emotional and artistic peak. (www.interpolnyc.com)

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