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Album review: Interpol, 'Interpol'

September 7, 2010 |  9:57 am

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

Interpol

“Interpol”

Matador/Soft Limit

Two stars out of four

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