Review Summary: A new animal, a new work of art.
Given his incredible performances on both Turn on the Bright Lights
, any suggestions that Interpol would have been better off without Carlos Dengler would have been deservedly met with derision. Sometimes intricate and sometimes bold, his basslines were a large part of what gave Interpol their distinctive post punk sound, trumped perhaps only by Paul Banks’ distinctive baritone delivery. However, the hit and miss Our Love to Admire
was barely stamped with his trademark style, whilst the practically hook-free self titled album saw him take an even further step back, hinting at his departure. In truth Dengler’s love affair with Interpol had been winding down for some time, but rather than missing what was an increasingly fractured relationship, Banks and co sound more refreshed than ever. Daniel Kessler’s riffs are huge and at times anthemic, Sam Fogarino sounds re-energized behind his kit, and Paul Banks provides not only incredible vocals, but also driving basslines. The decision not to replace Dengler was a bold one, but it’s been entirely justified.
Ahead of the album’s release, lead singer Banks described the now three piece Interpol as a ‘new animal,’ and even admitted that they had to prove to both themselves and their fans that they were still capable of making a great record. It’s perhaps more than just a coincidence then that they've released their strongest album in a decade. Just as Turn on the Bright Lights
showcased their brilliance when they first burst onto the scene, El Pintor
comes at a time when they were forced to prove it all over again – and they've made quite the statement.
The anthemic ‘All the Rage Back Home’ opens the album brilliantly, and it’s quite possibly the strongest song the band has written since ‘Evil.’ Beginning in subdued fashion, Paul Banks’ calm drawl stands parallel to a lone Daniel Kessler riff before being joined by resolute drumming and a forceful bassline. Dengler may have gone, but Banks hasn’t shied away from taking up the mantle, and any reservations that the bass would be simple or obscured are quickly dissipated. Though it’s never as sophisticated as it was on past albums, it alternates between commanding and fitting accordingly, and it adds a touch more punk to Interpol’s post punk sound than we've seen for many years. Elsewhere, album highlight ‘Breaker 1’ boasts a menacing vocal performance which wouldn't have sounded out of place on the seminal Turn on the Bright Lights
, and following track ‘Tidal Wave’ benefits from swirling electronics which compliment the excellent riff as it builds to a potent final chorus.
The falsetto led ‘My Blue Supreme’ and the unconventional riff on ‘Same Town, New Story’ both catch the eye, and its testament to the strength of the album that almost any song could be dissected and examined positively. Some cuts do of course stand above the rest, but deciding which moments to mention comes as a welcome change to searching for highlights as was unfortunately the case on their languid self titled album. Whether Interpol were confident enough to hint at the album being a work of art, or whether they simply fancied a good anagram, El Pintor
is a huge improvement by a band that, perhaps without the added pressure to once again succeed, would have instead spiralled further into irrelevancy.