Review Summary: While not nearly as effective or interesting as its predecessor, "Antics" is at it core a good rock album.2 of 5 thought this review was well written
When Interpol is brought up nowadays it's usually in terms of squandered potential. Arguably they were already doomed after emerging from obscurity with Turn On the Bright Lights
, a classic album that did almost everything right, balancing Joy Division-esque darkness and gloom with beautiful 21st century tone and production to make a definitive modern post-punk record. Many bands who release masterpieces for debuts struggle to either duplicate and recreate their musical success or evolve, or in Interpol's case, do both. The result, Antics
, still displays Interpol basics (reverb, darkly sensual lyrics, prominent rhythm section) and yet simplifies the formula in a way that detracts from its effectiveness, uniqueness, and memorability.
All of this isn't to say that it isn't a good album; it is. It's by no means classic or essential, and never hits as hard or as poignantly as its predecessor, but the music, especially in the run of "Evil" to "Not Even Jail" is enjoyable and usually very catchy. The two most well-known singles, "Evil" and "Slow Hands" are each strong while leaning a bit more towards the poppy side; more like Franz Ferdinand than The Chameleons. Like most of the record, they don't have much of an effect on the listener other than just being enjoyable tracks. The instrumentation and production is still excellent, despite being more sparse and quite a bit less atmospheric than Bright Lights. The screeching, echoed guitars are a welcome Interpol staple, and when joined with Carlos Dengler's more prominent and technical bass work can still make flawed songs sound much better. The bass and drums in "Narc" especially lift that song over the top, and "Take You On a Cruise" is one of the band's best songs, drenched in reverb and echoing guitars evoking "Hands Away" from Turn On the Bright Lights.
However, in even the best songs, like the aforementioned "Take You On a Cruise", Paul Banks stumbles through out-of-place and clumsy lines like "I'm timeless like a broken watch/I make money like Fred Astaire" and in the bombastic "Not Even Jail", "I will bounce you on the lap of silence". "Next Exit" is a poorly conceived song that doesn't work as the opener and yet couldn't fit anywhere else: the organ, plodding pace, and simplistic and often cliched lyrics start the album off on a bad foot. In many places the lyrics just serve as expositions of how great/bad it is to be Paul Banks; while "Turn On the Bright Lights" was relatable, "Antics" is in some places narcissistic and off-putting and in others cliche'd and over-wrought. It's difficult to give the album the weight that clearly it's meant to have when the songwriting is often so poppy and shallow.
"Antics" isn't a disaster, just a disappointment. The lack of artistic evolution combined with its inconsistent stadium-rock aesthetic make it suffer as a follow up to a masterpiece, but the music is still catchy and enjoyable. If you're a big fan of mid-2000s post-punk revival and are able to set aside potential and see it as a skin-deep collection of songs, it's worth your time.
Take You On a Cruise
Not Even Jail