Turn on the Bright Lights



by rliu USER (9 Reviews)
June 15th, 2013 | 13 replies

Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I don’t want realism. I want magic

If 9/11 could be described as simultaneously the ending of the post-War American Dream and the day that the devastating impact of modern technology hit home against its most active promoter, then Interpol's 'Turn On the Bright Lights', recorded barely 2 months after the incident, is one of the albums that most keenly capture the existential crisis and disillusionment of Noughties America, and to a wider extent the entire Western civilisation.

The listener is immediately confronted by a sense of loss and disorientation by the opening track 'Untitled', with its sparse and desolate opening riff and barely present lyrics that speak of a 'surprise' that 'will come around'. Nothing much need be said in this world where progress has stalled and history is repeating itself with manifestations of never-ending violence.

The escapism we can offer as a riposte to the chaos of the wider world is through our immediate intimate relationships, but in Interpol's world this too is fraught with difficulty and strife. Love is presented as distant and forever an empty promise, captured by the twinned song titles 'Obstacle 1' and 'Obstacle 2'. In the first the narrator, 'poor and aging', speaks of a lover who 'puts the weight into my little heart', despite the fact that 'her stories are boring and stuff'. Perhaps this narrator is a metaphor for America, a fading world-power increasingly paranoid about the world it exists in, falling into irrelevance like Blanche Dubois - clinging onto former glories and making do with less than glamorous allies. In the latter, these emotions of longing turn desperate and sinister, the aging beau lashing out against the incomprehensible target of his desires, vowing to 'pull you in close gonna wrap you up tight', while convincing himself that his ends justifies his means - 'it took time then I found you.'

The frequent hints at destruction and the macabre throughout the album ('she was alright because the sea was so airtight', 'each night, I bury my love around you', 'pavements they are a mess') culminates most clearly in 'Roland', a study on a Sweeney Todd style serial killer - 'my best friend's a butcher, he has sixteen knives/he severed segments and secretly liked that', perhaps a biting piece of satire against American fascination and admiration for killers and brutalism, and the ethos of might is right.

This frenetic whirlwind through intense emotions of love, hate, fear and violence ends on a tame note with 'Leif Erikson', a track which answers the questions 'Untitled' posed at the beginning of the album with a combination of wistful acceptance and futile resistance. 'The clock is set for nine but you know you’re gonna make it eight' is as close as we can get to turning back time to bygone splendour. There is also acknowledgement at last of vulnerability, 'She swears I’m just prey to the female, well then hook me up and throw me, baby cakes, 'cos I like to get hooked.' We may live in the dying days of Western dominance, but we may as well enjoy one last throw of the dice, one last turn to play host of the party, one last chance to turn on those bright lights.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

Now I need to go and listen to the album again.

June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

This was an interesting read, but it's not so much a review as it is an interpretation of supposed political undertones which I think is a bit of a stretch to say this album has.

June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for your comment breakingthefragile, I would like to clarify I do not interpret this album as aiming to have overt or intentional political subtexts, I wanted more to convey that the album mirrors the current state of Western political influence and culture, which informs the existential angst and frustration of our age. As the feminist slogan goes, the personal is political, our private lives and outlooks are always subconsciously informed by the state of the nation. Of course primarily the album is about the toils of love, which I address in the 3rd paragraph, but I just thought it interesting to analyse what lies behind the anguish of the narrative voice in this album.

June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

This is a top-5 album for me, but I admit my balls shrivel a bit whenever I hear the word "9/11" in a review of it. Pos'd for the score and well-writtenness.

June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5

Great album. You seem to interpret it slightly differently than I do.

June 15th 2013


One of my all time favourite bands. I can't say they've ever made an album I didn't thoroughly enjoy.

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June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

album is amazing yea

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June 15th 2013



June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

there's a lyric on one of the demos for this album that says "i can't make it in peacetime, find some violence" but apparently paul removed it because he thought it was inappropriate after 9/11. this review is good and it's interesting to look at this album from this perspective. i always thought there was sort of vague dystopian theme to this album and it's nice to see that viewpoint expanded on even if a few of your interpretations are pretty far-fetched. you might want to fix some of the grammatical errors though.

for example "we the listener is immediately confronted by a sense of loss and disorientation."

June 15th 2013


remember this being pretty boring

June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 2.5


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June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 5.0

i kind of feel like the best friend he talks about in roland is actually himself, but like the darker side of himself that he keeps hidden from people. for example the line where he says "he always took the time to talk to me and i liked him for that" sounds like this side of him is something he goes to almost as a means of personal therapy when he is unable to keep a smile on when he knows the world he knows is declining. also the line "he was growing on me" seems to me like he is finding himself turning to this other side of him more often, like this cynical version of himself is becoming his default personality. and where he says "they caught him with his case in a public place, that is what he had feared" sounds like he was unable to revert to his naive persona and people are seeing him for who he is now.

June 15th 2013


Album Rating: 3.0


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