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Interpol - Topic

Antics Play

Had Interpol been honest with themselves before making their second album, they would've accepted the fact that improving on the debut would be out of the question. Their prime objective, then, would be to make a different record -- not a better one. Suck it up, prepare for the inevitable "sophomore slump" darts, and get on with it. Having fielded comparison after comparison since the release of Turn on the Bright Lights, you'd think the band would've also thought to be more cautious the second time around. They weren't. Believe it or not, Antics opens with a song that resembles a defunct band more closely -- in structure, sound, and sentiment -- than anything on the debut. From the processional church organ to the sighing guitar, from the echo on the spare piano notes to the sound of the drums, from the stained-glass window to the wailing wall, "Next Exit" is a poor facsimile of Gentlemen-era Afghan Whigs (there we go again). Though the remainder of the album sounds like Interpol, and not your favorite unsung band, it's far from a favorable start -- and as Antics plays out, the album begins to form the shape of a Singles Going Unsteady, with five possible A-sides and as many apparent B-sides arranged to stream like something you'd listen to from beginning to end. The sequence runs thusly: B-side, A-side, A-side, B-side, A-side, B-side, B-side, A-side, A-side, B-side. Some of the five A-sides cast Interpol in brighter light -- a relatively upbeat one, not merely an up-tempo one. Though up-tempo songs weren't absent from Turn on the Bright Lights, they were delivered in pensive, steady waves of gloom. The up-tempo songs here aren't nearly as downcast -- even "C'mere," in which Paul Banks sings, "The trouble is that you're in love with someone else," turns out to be more charming than self-pitying. Another development is the presence of some taut dance rhythms -- touring has made them a better, more flexible band, especially within the interplay between bassist Carlos Dengler and drummer Sam Fogarino. To the band's credit, the weaker songs aren't necessarily eating space for no reason -- their B-material here is more affecting than the average indie band's A-material. The problem is that, during those lesser moments, the band shows signs of attempting to cannibalize Turn on the Bright Lights' magnetic sulking, and their hearts don't seem to be as in it. The truth, as alluded to above, is that they will never make a record as special as the debut. However, following it with one that is merely very good is no crime. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Interpol Play

A lot about Interpol suggests that it's a statement of purpose, from its eponymous title to the fact that it was released by Matador, where the band released its best material. There is a back-to-basics feel: producer Alan Moulder gives the band a more muscular attack by pushing the rhythm section to the fore. Interpol spends the first half of the album shoring up their strengths, particularly well on "Barricade," which could have appeared on Turn on the Bright Lights. Despite the direct sonics, many of these songs take some time to understand; even the single "Lights" is more insistent than catchy, with a drilling riff that builds into a dark meditation on love and control. The band sounds fresher than they have in some time. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

Interpol [2002 EP] Play

This impressive three-song single is Interpol's first release for Matador, following a self-released single and another for Scotland's Chemikal Underground. At some point early on, someone decided to start comparing this New York trio to Joy Division, which makes sense given the mannered, precise fashion in which the group builds tension and (sometimes) releases it, and for the fact that the vocals occasionally approach the depths of Ian Curtis' thick baritone. These comparisons began snowballing and eventually turned to accusations of cloning. This is a horribly nearsighted way of viewing the band; a Joy Division comparison is only one of many that can be drawn, and they are all tenuous at best. A couple examples: the tightly wound nervousness of the vocals truthfully has more in common with the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano without sounding like a bratty, scrawny Patti Smith fan; the solemn "NYC" surprisingly resembles mid-'80s U2 to an extent, removing all the pomp and throwing itself into a thicket of reverb anchored by a dubwise bassline. To those looking beneath the surface, Interpol becomes a band of its own. Each of the songs here emit various shades of gray, built on durable arrangements, a veteran band's sense of economy and dynamics, and a streak of gloom that never quite reaches overbearing doom. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Our Love to Admire Play

Though Our Love to Admire is technically Interpol's first major-label album, the way the band attempted to streamline the gorgeously dark atmospherics of Turn on the Bright Lights into something more marketable on Antics made that album feel more like their big-time debut than this album does. On Our Love to Admire, Interpol spends roughly half their time following Antics' game plan of distilling their sound into readily accessible hooks, and the other half stretching their sound with deluxe arrangements and filigrees like strings, brass, and keyboards (all of which are used to grandiose effect on "Wrecking Ball"). Our Love to Admire's poppy tracks have been polished into black patent leather brilliance: "No I in Threesome"'s jaunty, insistent rhythms and "The Heinrich Maneuver"'s relatively bright, bouncy attack show that Interpol has gotten better, or at least more accomplished, at transforming their sound into singles since Antics. More heartening news for Turn on the Bright Lights fans arrives on Our Love to Admire's ambitious tracks, some of which come close to touching the greatness of Interpol's debut. "Pioneer to the Falls" uses the album's expansive production to the hilt, beginning with elegantly treacherous guitars, strings, and pianos; Daniel Kessler's soaring guitar solo and Paul Banks' repeated entreaties of "you fly straight into my heart" feel like the musical equivalent of storm clouds clearing. The song is filmic and full of ideas, and updates the spirit behind Turn on the Bright Lights without rehashing its sound slavishly. "Mammoth" is another standout, a tense yet hypnotic rocker that builds into a graceful fury around the refrain "spare me the suspense" and the band's relentless rhythm section. However, two of the prettiest songs vie for the title of the album's strongest track: "Rest My Chemistry" is Our Love to Admire's languid, luminous centerpiece (and the song that most clearly recalls Turn on the Bright Lights' magic), while the album's spare, vulnerable finale, "The Lighthouse," boasts some of Banks' most natural, affecting vocals yet. When Our Love to Admire falters -- and it falters a fair amount of the time -- it's because Interpol's attention to atmosphere and detail outpaces the songwriting. At this point the band is so professional that songs like "The Scale," "Who Do You Think?," and "Pace Is the Trick" can sound good in the moment, but fail to leave a lasting impression. With nearly as many awkward moments as inspired ones, Our Love to Admire is a somewhat schizophrenic listening experience. It feels like half of an album by a band making sure their songs that fit the mold of what they've done before, and half of an album by a band using their major-label leverage to push their boundaries. Who knows which version of the band will prevail, but there are just enough interesting songs on Our Love to Admire to suggest that they can't be written off entirely just yet. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

Remix Play

Interpol's rhythm section comes out ahead of the guitarists on this four-track EP of remixes, featuring a track reworked by each member of the band on an individual basis (though Sam Fogarino is joined by Bob Mould during his turn). Paul Banks' shot at "Narc" is a solemn re-recording consisting of only acoustic guitar and Banks' distant voice. Daniel Kessler's "Not Even Jail" sounds like it could've been done on the fly, with interjections of noisy sound effects and a harsher drum sound. Fogarino and Mould's "The Length of Love" is the best of the batch by a great distance, throwing drums every which way while maintaining a steady groove (it could be confused with a DFA mix with the addition of some cowbell). Carlos D's "Public Pervert" is a spare, winding dance track that sounds custom-made for one of his DJ sets. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Turn on the Bright Lights Play

One might go into a review like this one wondering how many words will pass before Joy Division is brought up. In this case, the answer is 16. Many are too quick to classify Interpol as mimics and lose out on discovering that little more than an allusion is being made. The music made by both bands explores the vast space between black and white and produces something pained, deftly penetrating, and beautiful. Save for a couple vocal tics, that's where the obvious parallels end. The other fleeting comparisons one can one whip up when talking about Interpol are several -- roughly the same amount that can be conjured when talking about any other guitar/drums/vocals band formed since the '90s. So, sure enough, one could play the similarity game with this record all day and bring up a pile of bands. It could be a detrimental thing to do, especially when this record is so spellbinding and doesn't deserve to be mottled with such bilge. However, this record is a special case; slaying the albatross this band has been unfairly strangled by is urgent and key. Let's: there's another Manchester band at the heart of "Say Hello to the Angels," but that heart is bookended by a beginning and end that approaches the agitated squall of Fugazi; the torchy, elegiac "Leif Erikson" plays out like a missing scene from the Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen; the upper-register refrain near the close of "Obstacle 1" channels Shudder to Think. This record is no fun at all, the tension is rarely resolved, and -- oh no! -- it isn't exactly revolutionary, though some new shades of gray have been discovered. But you shouldn't allow your perception to be fogged by such considerations when someone has just done it for you and, most importantly, when all this brilliance is waiting to overwhelm you. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Precipitate Play

Want to hear what the Chameleons might sound like had Joy Division's Ian Curtis lived? If he had spent the '80s bicycling from Stockport up to Middleton and Rochdale, relieving Mark Burgess of vocal duties instead of gracing the iconic T-shirts of grieving admirers? Forgive a writer who hears his virtual aural twin coming out of the speakers, singing in an exact same traumatic manner. It's uncanny. And as for the other reference, if the excellent "Song Seven" or "A Time to Be So Small" weren't inspired by Script of the Bridge (they sure could pass for outtakes), then that too is an accident of highly remarkable coincidence. So why pay any attention to this new New York's outfit's four-song EP if it's so past-gazing and too-familiar? Because they're so good at it. Interpol sound more like a first-round draft pick who already can at least hold the court/field/rink/pitch with the veteran stars -- and you can easily see them getting there with some seasoning. The recording on songs like "PDA" is bright and crystalline gorgeous, the arrangements are fresh and interesting, the songs are well-developed, and the singing by the uncredited Curtis clone has the original's same jarring quality to get into places of yours you prefer not to play with. This is a highly accomplished, pretty, sonorously moving EP. Most New York bands since 1985 have shunned guitar effects that might get them branded Anglophiles, as if an effects box or an amp setting has a nationality. Hope that prosaic myopia is going the way of heroin chic. ~ Jack Rabid, Rovi
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