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Album review: Interpol, 'Interpol'

Ole-945_250x250 Interpol returns after three years with its fourth album, self-titling the release (on the Matador label) as if to remind people who it is. On its 2002 full-length debut, “Turn on the Bright Lights,” the New York City quartet made an instant impact by overlapping baritone-voiced cool, jagged guitars, elastic bass lines and a penchant for sudden, tension-busting choruses. But since then the songs have lost some snap and “Interpol” fails to reverse the trend.

Still, the band sounds terrific. Alan Moulder’s mix highlights the intricate work of the rhythm section and the textural details that have always lurked on the fringes of Interpol’s best songs. But this time, those details — the syncopated rumble of a kick drum, the nimble allure of a bass line — supersede the tunes. Moulder lasers in on Carlos Dengler’s bass, and for good reason: Dengler not only wins the band’s best-dressed award, he’s also its finest musician. But he quit Interpol after the recording sessions for this album, and its lack of focus may explain why.

The songs trace the arch of an unraveling relationship, as need gives way to obsession, desperation and finally despair. Singer Paul Banks turns a few cutting phrases (“I did not take to analysis/So I had to make up my mind”), bringing a bit of dark humor to what is otherwise a somber, even morose, cycle of late-night soul-purging.

“Lights” presents an excellent summation of Interpol’s ability to deliver slow-burn payoff. Unfortunately, nothing else on the album approaches that level of structured brilliance. What we get are bits and pieces of promising music without strong foundations. The last half of the album in particular presents a major drop-off, with songs adrift in the same distressed landscape of atmospheric guitars and tepid rhythm. Sometimes a promising start (the guitar/drums interplay that ushers in “Safe Without”) fails to go anywhere, other times suspect ideas (the clunky piano in “Try It On”) derail a song from the start. As meticulously as these sounds and instruments are recorded, as beautiful and haunting as they sometimes sound, they don’t add up to more than one or two truly memorable songs.

—Greg Kot



Matador/Soft Limit

Two stars out of four

Comments () | Archives (8)

Wow, I totally agree with this review. Finally, a highly-anticipated album, not butchered by the ramblings of Ann Powers.

Carlos quit the band?? That's not great news but happy for the new album.

Nice review. Couldn't agree more that the piano start to Try It On is clunky. Lights is a stand out, as you say, but Summer Well is pretty good too.

The only reason you 2 out of 5'd this is because you fail to relate to it. Not every album is supposed to give you what you want b/c you want "melody" for every album...I think these guys made a terrific album. There is such a moreso feeling of melancholy without the "happier" overtone to it with this one. In Antics and Our Love To Admire they became more melodic and less like their first album. I feel this one was going back to their first, but going the other direction. Great stuff...excellent musicians.

I have to say, reviews never justify anything.
Consider this, can you review, or rely on someone else's review of that one perfect summer day in the summer of whenever, that for you was just, beautiful, amazing, however it was for you?
Interpol's music, for me, is like the soundtrack to a dark, somber, yet strangely playful, romantic, emotional, catchy soundtrack to times that i just could never explain in words, convey in a work of writing, or even begin to share with another person, you have to just experience, and feel it for yourself. That's what art is, particularly music, that's what makes it so personal.
Turn on the bright lights was more easliy accessable for a larger group of people, but Our love to admire is regarded as the lesser of the first three albums, why? because you can't really bust it out on karaoke night without people scratching their heads? It's art, emotion, everyone interprets it differently.
The more i listen to the new album, the more it moves me, grows on me.
If you love Interpol, you simply need all of their work, period, you what i'm talking about, they're like Radiohead in the sense that if you love their work, you simply must have all of their work, or you're definately missing out on something special.

Great review. The album's a good example of a band looking at themselves too much for new material.

Solid review. Just listened to it today and wow, they dropped the ball. "Lights" is amazing, but there's nothing on par with the last three records (and I'm an apologist for the last one). Debating on selling this back to Amoeba.

What ever anyone says about this record, I can't get the songs out of my head. Like all of Interpol's work, it grows on you til it's a part of your life. It's a great work.


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