Interpol - Interpol

Album cover
Indie, Post-Punk
Matador
Interpol
Interpol
Interpol - Interpol Review rating:
3.5
User rating:
Average: 3.5 (6 votes)

Every album by New York-based indie rock band Interpol has had its fans and its detractors. Sure, this is true of any band, but Interpol in particular seem to spur "best-album-of-the-decade-of-all-time" fanatics as equally as they inspire haters who call the band "middle-school-aged emo." Usually, these types of bipolar descriptors delineate a group who have matured wonderfully but are accused of "selling out" (see: Linkin Park), but Interpol have been surrounded by these discourses since their 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights. Just as The Strokes were post-Blur critical phenomena, Interpol were post-Strokes darlings of the indie scene. And just like any other lauded New York group, as soon as the band's sound matured on 2007's Our Love to Admire, they were deemed not good enough any longer, despite the fact that the album represents some of their most thoughtful, intricate work.

But in responding to the critical discontent concerning Our Love to Admire, Interpol turn in the wrong direction. On their fourth album, 2010's self-titled release, they decide to, well, self-title themselves. In an attempt to steal the brush from the hands of the listeners and critics, and paint a new picture of themselves, they eliminate much of the magic that helped them record songs like the timeless "NYC" or the epic "Pioneer to the Falls." Rather than making music to be absorbed and acquired, they make music that is shallow - it describes exactly what it is to the listener, and expects the listener to agree.  This is represented well in the album's artwork: it is dark and mysterious (like the album; this will be discussed shortly) and the letters of the band's name are flying into place, like the animation of a studio's name at the beginning of a movie.  This is Interpol attempting to construct themselves as they want to be seen.

You may be thinking, "what does that even mean?" Well, the album's fourth track, "Lights," may assist your understanding. It opens with a single repeated guitar note, establishing a woefully minor sound immediately. "This will not be a happy song," it says. Next, the band's lyrics, always rather vague, slide even further into abstract indulgence: "Don´t turn away and leave me to plead in this hole of a place/ What if I never break?/ Estuary, won't you take me far away." Emotive, dark, and urban (in the Watchmen sense, not the hip-hop sense), they are gorgeous strings of words - but not much more. Pounding drums say "listen to us" as the song builds to a gradual crescendo and singer Paul Banks cries "that's why I hold you near" on repeat. After that lengthy and rather complimentary description, it would be a surprise if you didn't want to hear the song. And you should listen to it. Don't be deceived: it's a great song. Yes, it is. But it's merely a great song because Interpol know how to convince you it's a great song, not because it has any innate quality of greatness...similar to the rest of the album.

The constant trembling note-by-note guitar in the background of "Always Malaise (The Man I Am)" provides it with an unsteady quality, and it is the moment on the album where Interpol feel most natural - arguably their most successful moment. The lyrics are the most direct; Danks describes a man who determines what parts of him he'll show to his acquaintances, and how they should view him. Perhaps this is a hidden confession that the band is doing just that for themselves on this release. Or perhaps not. That would give them a little too much credit. In any case, the track ends all too abruptly, leaving the listener hanging on and wanting to hear it again. It is a minor success, unlike the keyboard-driven "Try It On," the pretentious final track "The Undoing," or the confusing and mediocre opener "Success." The album is additionally muddled because, although it requires multiple listens to appreciate the sonic layers (and there are many, part of Interpol's strategy to make you like them), most of the tracks don't satisfy the listener increasingly with each listen. It's a conundrum, and one that subtracts strongly from the album's long-time worth.

Off-kilter single "Barricade" delivers the same unfulfilling feeling while simultaneously acting as the best earworm on the album. Many listeners, particularly long-time Interpol fans, will want very badly to like it. Sadly, they probably won't be able to get past its deliberate construction. One of the qualities that made past Interpol songs so unique was their spontaneity, their writhing tension, the feeling that they could at any moment break their banks, like a wild river, and flood over your body and soul. This quality is not present on Interpol. It is replaced by a manufactured dark-and-brooding affectation a la The Bravery's 2009 Stir the Blood. Except here, the band attempts to be impenetrable, rather than...penetrable (yes, please apply the sexual connotations)...like The Bravery. They succeed, but in the wrong way: Interpol isn't accessible because its gorgeous exploration of music is shallow, not because it's too deep for most listeners. And that's why the album is great, yet not very good at the same time.

1. Success
2. Memory Serves
3. Summer Well
4. Lights
5. Barricade
6. Always Malaise (The Man I Am)
7. Safe Without
8. Try It On
9. All of the Ways
10. The Undoing

At least two bands share their name with the International Criminal Police Organisation, in short Interpol.

1. Interpol is an indie rock band based in New York City, United States, that took an important part in the post-punk revival of the 2000s. The band consists of Paul Banks (vocals and guitar), Sam Fogarino (drums), and Daniel Kessler (guitar and backing vocals).

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