Julian Plenti
Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper


1.5
very poor

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
July 31st, 2009 | 37 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A thoroughly uninteresting expansion on post-good Interpol’s sound, Skyscraper is an excruciating rundown of why Paul Banks has regrettably become one of the most irritating frontmen in indie rock.

Remember when the harshest critique one could give Interpol was that they were ripping Joy Division? Oh, those were better days. Days before Interpol dropped their lush textures and foreboding atmosphere, giving Paul Banks free reign to play ringmaster in a perverse circus where he could really say whatever he wanted in that robotic bleat that characterized the troubling Antics and the god-awful Our Love to Admire, days before they hid their greatest assets in the rhythm section with mind-numbingly simplistic parts while Banks waxed poetic on the tribulations of group sex or, more commonly, on nothing at all.

So where does Paul Banks get the gall to release a solo album? There are no reports of Interpol breaking up, and Our Love To Admire certainly did nothing to raise Banks’ credibility as an artist. In fact, on paper, he’s exactly the type of artist who should never release solo material: his voice lacks the chops to excuse his notoriously senseless lyrics for eleven songs, and as Our Love to Admire’s failure with bare arrangements proved, Banks is best suited for a role supporting a band rather than a role as a leading man. When Banks came out with his new Julian Plenti moniker, promises of a more electronic sound, and –wait for it- a “cocky, sexy” feel, one would be forgiven for being a bit wary of what he had in store, or for being downright scared after getting a glimpse of that album cover (I mean, just look at that thing…).

Lead single “Fun That We Have” introduces the world to Julian Plenti by realizing those fears; the song’s exactly the kind of progression to shit-jangle pop one would dread after Our Love to Admire, with guitars stuttering maniacally and Banks doing his melancholy dance floor shtick, obsessively insisting ”with all the fun that we have, we have come far” before a time change signals him to go into spooky-mode. It’s a schizophrenic mess, utterly failing as a teaser for Julian Plenti. With this type of introduction and Paul Banks’ established pattern of getting worse with each progressive release, it would’ve been a miracle if his debut album wasn’t a bottom of the barrel misfire, getting released only because of the half-interesting name behind it instead of the material inside. No such luck, however: Julian Plenti is… Skyscraper is every bit as bad as it promises to be.

A thoroughly uninteresting expansion on post-good Interpol’s sound, Skyscraper is an excruciating rundown of why Banks has regrettably become one of the most irritating frontmen in indie rock. For years he’s been getting away with using his distinct voice to make his perplexing lyrics sound dark in a pleasingly (or at least passably) twisted kind of way because his band crafted some superbly tight post-punk behind him. All he had to do was sound depressed and the machine would run. Banks’ solo arrangements do not support him the same way, if at all. Skyscraper finds him trying desperately to expand his image with forays into different genres, but he never fails to get in his own way with lyrics so banal it’s a wonder someone didn’t stop and ask him what the fuck he was doing. It’s sad to listen to him experiment with folk balladry and (swear to god) arena rock while crooning (or whatever it is that he does) lyrics like ”Girl on the sporting news, I just wanna tell you one thing: you’ve got the kind of sex appeal that doesn’t get a guy like me down!”

Yes, Skyscraper is filled with those types of Banks lyrics, the kind of trademark brain-vomit that produces words that sound cute together but lack any semblance of cohesion. Skyscraper simply does not have the tunes to pull this kind of drek off. On Turn On the Bright Lights, rhyming couplets like ”Stories are boring and stuff/she’s always calling my bluff” were excused in the name of atmosphere, and on Antics, pole dancing cars were forgiven because the songs were still pretty good. But here? Here we get intimate Coldplay-style ballads about someone who it seems will most certainly die (“No Chance Survival”) or post-punk burners featuring biting insults (possibly) like “You taste just like the river.” Even the stronger tracks get whacked by Banks’ plague: on the otherwise enjoyably hypnotic title track, Banks implores a skyscraper to shake him. However, nothing compares to perhaps the most awkward description of getting an erection ever, as Banks drops this holy-fuck gem on “Girl On the Sporting News:” ”So bring it up, bring clips of the sexiest sports moves in for the score. Fill it up, fill minutes up and talk about that glorious season until I'm sore.”

Seriously.

Perhaps the album peaks early with “Only If You Run,” if only because it doesn’t give away that the following ten songs will shit all over Paul Banks’ image. It’s teasingly simplistic, with lines resembling endearment like ”You will make it, but only if you run.” Its melody is catchy, its tone subdued. It’s Banks not trying to overreach his boundaries. In fact, the song wouldn’t sound out of place on the later Interpol albums, and that’s meant in the best way possible. It’s a quick nod to where Banks obviously belongs before he runs amok in his mediocrity, reminding us all how much he’s fallen since Turn On the Bright Lights. That’s the worst thing about Julian Plenti is… Skyscraper: It’s just another cruel reminder that Banks and his host band have lost almost everything that once made them special, and is another frustrating indication that they’ll never get it back.



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user ratings (54)
Chart.
2.9
good
other reviews of this album
Ben W (3)
Succeeds at doing something Interpol no longer can: trying something different....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 31st 2009


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Probably wrote too much for a not-so-big release but I'm just really pissed at this.

Willie
Moderator
July 31st 2009


16149 Comments


Well, it's best to get it out of your system ;)

Probably unsurprisingly, I've never heard Interpol or any of this guy's solo stuff.

Digging: Mors Principium Est - Dawn Of The 5th Era

zachfearsatan
July 31st 2009


19 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i went into this expecting soo much more. first track is by far the best, and wanders into unmemorable filler afterwards.

Chewie
August 1st 2009


4533 Comments


grood review, this looks terrible just from the lyrics

robin
Emeritus
August 1st 2009


4261 Comments


that bad? still can't wait for whenever the band releases a new album

good review and stuff, at least someone who isnt from the strokes is doing a side project



NotMrBlonde
August 1st 2009


395 Comments


Fantastic review, gave me a few chuckles.


This sounds god awful.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2009


20858 Comments


Adam, I hope this makes sense, but I almost get the feeling that you liked 'Turn on the Bright Lights' too much to review anything after 'Antics' that is Interpol related.

However, you deserve the benefit of the doubt here because I think the actual length of this review backed up your assertions well.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2009


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Davey, while I can understand that fear, I'm pretty sure the general consensus is TotBL>>Antics>OLtA. As an Interpol fan, I'd be more than happy with an album of Antics quality, and can accept that Turn on the Bright Lights was a one off moment of brilliance for the band.

Maybe me being so frustrated with their last record made me dislike this record all the more idk but I don't think I attacked this album unfairly

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2009


20858 Comments


No, I agree that you did NOT attack the album unfairly either. I also agree that the "general consensus" has Interpol's albums ranked that way.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you gushed over 'TotBl' so much (too much IMO) that I felt you were a little harsh on Interpol's 2nd & 3rd LPs (especially 'Antics'). I can sense the frustration & disappointment in your words here. Fair enough too, we all have such moments/bands.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2009


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

My Antics review was probably a little misguided, I wrote it in 2005. I've relaxed on it since then I'd put it at a 3.5 or maybe even a 4 on a good day

gaslightanthem
August 1st 2009


5209 Comments


must be hard being downer all the time

HighandDriving
August 1st 2009


3288 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This can't be that bad.

VeryPleasantNeighbor
August 1st 2009


272 Comments


with lyrics like those, yes, it really can be that bad.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2009


20858 Comments


"My Antics review was probably a little misguided, I wrote it in 2006. I've relaxed on it since then I'd put it at a 3.5 or maybe even a 4 on a good day."

Huge kudos for saying that Adam.


SeaAnemone
August 2nd 2009


20969 Comments


Oh, how far he's fallen

Digging: Viet Cong - Viet Cong

bloc
August 2nd 2009


35024 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

damn, i LOVE interpol. but deep down, i knew this would be terrible.

Ummagumma87
August 3rd 2009


1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

haha, after reading all this, i now feel kinda guilty of liking it so much :P

kingsoby1
Emeritus
August 5th 2009


4957 Comments


lol @ Paul Banks

i actually hate all of interpol's discography, so this would probably be a 1 for me.

cbmartinez
August 5th 2009


2525 Comments


not surprised, when the first song came out it just sounded like interpol but way more boring. why bother even doing a solo album?

PointDemo
August 6th 2009


49 Comments


I really wanted to like this...disappointing. Julian Casablanca's will most definitely be more satisfying



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