Review Summary: Good riddance, Julian Plenti. "Banks" sounds like a legitimate output by an artist trying to create something great, not just something different.
Whether or not it's completely true, it's generally accepted that Interpol have been getting worse for the past decade. Given that, it's hard not to point the finger at their lead singer, Paul Banks, who essentially controls the direction the band takes and, given his lyrical propensity for egoism and a bit of smugness, makes himself an easy target. Skyscraper
, Banks' solo album under the pseudonym Julian Plenti, seemed to validate that criticism. It meandered around filled with embarrassing lyrics and half-baked ideas, essentially devoid of any musical value. However, Banks
, the singer's new album under his own name, is better in every way. The music is tighter and cohesive, the songs actually develop into something resembling a melody this time, and the entire thing isn't drenched in fifty gallons of irony like its predecessor. Unlike Skycraper
seems like a legitimate output by an artist trying to create something great, not just something different.
The album begins with a gorgeous acoustic guitar/keyboard intro to "The Base". Immediately the tone is set for what's to come; the ambience that used to define Interpol is abundantly present throughout this album, as pianos, guitars, and strings are used beautifully throughout instead of being forcefully thrown in to make a song "unique". His voice still sounds the same as it ever did, robotic and a bit rasping, but undercutting serene music it's actually comforting rather than unsettling. The instrumental track "Lisbon" may turn some off as being background music, but in such a calm album as this it's not only fitting but welcome. While the tracks may not get stuck in your head (Banks may not be able to do that as reliably anymore), all of them are good and none of them are nearly as offensive like some of the worst songs on Skyscraper
. Like Interpol's self-titled, it may take a few listens for this to register fully, but unlike Interpol
it generally sounds warm and the first few listens are pleasant even if they don't exactly worm their way into your mind.
Just because Banks' resigns himself to making good sounding music doesn't mean he doesn't try anything new; the aforementioned "Lisbon" is his first instrumental composition, and "Another Chance" is a surprising art piece based around alcoholism, a subject Banks has written about in the past but not with such harrowing juxtaposition. In fact, Banks
sometimes sounds more like a soundtrack than an album that begs your full attention. Skycraper
reeked of "look at me" egotism, while this is relaxed and resigned in a good way. The instrumental arrangement is never ugly or over-the-top, the vocals barely stress the higher volumes of his range, and the tone is consistently low-key, and it all comes together to be a great turnaround and a successful solo album.