Review Summary: An ambitious, and for the most part, successful experiment by Interpol.
Looking back at Interpol’s breakthrough album Turn on the Bright Lights
and seeing their drastic change when comparing it to 2010’s Interpol
, their progression as a band is somewhat disappointing. Gone are the fun, lighthearted songs Interpol were known for and in their place are gloomy, thought-provoking ones. Our Love to Admire
already showed a different side of Interpol, placing more emphasis on keyboards and Interpol
takes that even further, having them in nearly every song. Yet at the end of the day, Interpol
is an Interpol album, and although it’s the most ambitious record they’ve come out with, it still has enough 'Interpol' to please their fans and takes enough risks to stand out from the rest of their catalog.
Unlike Interpol’s other albums where Paul Banks’ vocals were a highlight, his vocals on Interpol
are the worst part of the album. Unfortunately they’re almost omnipresent, even overlapping themselves unnecessarily throughout. Banks’ tone itself doesn’t sound very exciting either, not that he ever had much enthusiasm in his voice, but in previous albums he at least sounded awake. Here he sounds dull and half asleep. Plus he has an awful effect on his voice, which makes the omnipresent, overlapping vocals even more irritable. The melodies themselves are decent - Banks can still write the occasional catchy chorus, but this record isn’t nearly as cheery as previous Interpol albums.
This is easily Interpol’s darkest album. Whether it’s from the increased amount of keyboards compared to previous Interpol albums, tremolo picking from the guitarist, or the effects on the vocals themselves, each song has a lingering mood about it. “Always Malaise (The Man I Am)” shows this best. The first half is musically Interpol’s most somber song, being very slow with bleak piano and strings in the background while Banks sings some cryptic ‘malaise’ lyrics. The tone of the song changes dramatically in the second half of the song where it becomes driving and uplifting but unlike anything off their previous albums. It sounds full, almost epic, with glaring brass in the background complimenting the fitting vocal trade offs. “Memory Serves” does something similar, beginning atmospheric and dark and ending rather optimistic, demonstrating Interpol toying with dynamics and mood more than ever before.
Aside from the overall vibe of the album, a number of songs on the album are good old-fashioned Interpol, namely the singles. “Barricade,” “Success,” and “Summer Well” are groovy songs with catchy hooks scattered about, but what makes these grooves different is that they're not bass driven - in fact, the bass is hardly audible. Carlos Dengler is an excellent bassist, or was, and his presence here is practically non-existent. Lead single “Barricade” features some interesting bass lines but that’s about as far as it goes. The emphasis is placed mostly on keyboards and vocals this time around, which isn't exactly the best direction for Interpol. “Try It On” is a great song, but an entire song revolving around a bland piano lick can get a bit tedious especially if there’s no interesting bass to back it up.
All things considered, I think Interpol
was an experiment, and a successful one at that. It’s definitely their most cohesive record to date. Some songs are almost required for them to be heard within the context of the album otherwise they wouldn’t make sense, such as the ethereal “All of the Ways” being an uninteresting, anti-climactic stand-alone song yet a necessary segue from the upbeat “Try It On” into the beautiful, orchestral album closer “The Undoing.” Quality wise, Turn on the Bright Lights
are head and shoulders above this album, but the sheer amount of experimentation and advancement in Interpol’s song-writing makes Interpol
a worthy addition to their discography.