written by Chris Familton
The new Interpol album appears at a definite junction in the band’s career. Over their first three records they gradually evolved a Joy Division, gothic indie rock sound from dark corners into widescreen epic gestures. One senses that Interpol heralds a re-stating of their intent, both with the name of the album and the singular theme of the artwork, focusing all attention on Interpol and the music. The other change within the band was bassist Carlos Dengler departing, an event that doesn’t have any bearing on the new album as recording had been completed prior to his leaving.
The immediate reaction is that musically things haven’t changed in Interpol land. From the opening notes of Success there are the recognisable signposts of Sam Fogarino’s martial drums, Daniel Kessler’s chiming, delay-driven guitar and Paul Banks stately vocal intonements. The song could really have appeared comfortably on any of Interpol’s previous albums.
If anything, a greater use of keyboards is the one minor development of their sound. They have employed them on earlier songs but perhaps a reluctance to always need a full time keyboardist on stage precluded their using them more. Now they have taken on board Secret Machines’ Brandon Curtis and fleshed out their sound with synth beds, ominous pseudo-strings, some ornate piano and twinkling electronics.
The rhythm section is still the driving force behind Interpol. With its precise, sparse and rock solid foundation the songs avoid descending into shoegaze washiness or directionless angst. The slow grind of Memory Serves subtly features rolling bass lines, stuttering punctuations and metronomic insistency while the following song Summer Well employs a four to the floor surge and some fantastic hi-hat intricacies from Fogarino.
First single Lights has been around long enough to already feel like a classic Interpol cut. Kessler’s guitar builds the tension with measured teasing before Banks brings the tortured soul with lines like ‘Don’t turn away and leave me to plead in this hole of a place” and “I want you to police me but keep it clean” continuing his themes of psychological strain, torn relationships and the enduring mysteries of love. When he repeatedly sings “That’s why I hold you dear” at the end of the song it highlights the shaft of sunlight he often allows to shine through on the shadowy scenes he paints.
Anthems have always been a key to Interpol’s success and Barricades fills that role wonderfully. Live this song will become an audience favourite with its uplifting motion and general danceability. For every big bold move Interpol always balance things out with a glacial ballad. Always Malaise (The Man I Am) is a synth-led slow burner that is all about mood and swirling elegance. They take things even further into gothic grandeur with All Of The Ways and its hazy smear of sonics that musically veers close to recent genres du jour like hauntology and witch house.
Kings of Leon made a misdirected swerve into the mainstream on Only By The Night and Interpol were perfectly placed to make the same mistake if they so chose. Thankfully they saw the light – or in their case, the dark – and worked with the same main ingredients that make them the band they are. Interpol will without doubt satiate the long term devotees but it doesn’t have the key moments that will lasso many new fans. Acceptance of what they do best – with some minor tweaks – is the right move at this stage of their evolution and they have done well to maintain the mystery and retain the dark drama and post-punk dynamics that is their calling card.
this review first appeared on Fasterlouder