Review Summary: A few highlights and some unexploited potential...
I must admit I was really looking forward to hearing the new Interpol album. I love El Pintor
, it brought a rejuvenation that was unlikely to happen. As front man Paul Banks stepped to fill Carlos Dengler’s duties, the bass lines got more direct and driving overall. Of course, some weren’t impressed (as expected), however, I thought it matched the music and gave it a boost. It was indeed a heavy loss and thankfully, he filled the void well. Plus, the material was stronger, tighter and catchier (the self-titled LP showed a band pretty much tired and inspirationally drained). Meanwhile, another four years took for Marauder
to see the light of day, the anticipation growing through the lead single, ‘The Rover’. I wasn’t impressed at first, still, the song got under my skin, raising my hopes back up. Unfortunately, the record rarely lives up to the hype generated around it.
relies too much on rather tame, mid-tempo hooks that often fail to build up any suspense. They are a bit blasé, often lacking the shoegaze embellishments, grit or even bombastic experimentation used to spice previous albums. On the upside, there’s a recurring swing influence that was slowed down a bit, creating a slick, late night version of it. Nevertheless, it’s not enough and many songs on the record gently flow by without offering much. Take for example ‘Complications’: it has a vintage vibe, but the chorus barely kicks in with a guitar lead over the rest of the instruments. As a consequence, it just softly moves along without any climax. Same goes for opening cut, ‘If You Really Love Nothing’, it keeps the same beat throughout, while you’re waiting to burst into some heavier progression or twist things a little. These aren’t bad tracks, they just lack some needed power or further exploration of the ideas (it doesn’t help they are first impressions either). ‘Flight of Fancy’ narrowly escapes this issue by pushing the bass up front during the choruses, whereas the minute-long coda features some cool, motorik beats and guitar leads. I understand Interpol chose a stripped approach, especially due to recording directly to tape. A part of the bare-bones structures didn’t need several overdubs for added oomph, they could’ve achieved the desired effect with some added delay or echo.
Fortunately, the record picks up towards the second half, where the mid-tempo, boogie groove of ‘Stay in Touch’ is mixed with classic Interpol drum patterns. Banks’ slick croon reveals some late night confessions as Daniel Kessler’s high-pitched, reverbed notes unfold. This is the overall setting Marauder
shares, rich, shady people pub crawling in the dead of night. To add to the atmosphere, the two interludes reminisce outdoor cigarette breaks with muffled music heard from inside. Also, the driving, post punk ditty, ‘Number 10’ injects some adrenaline towards the end. The intertwining, buzzing guitars switch constantly from melodic to slightly dissonant progressions, having a pleasant effect. Moreover, ‘Surveillance’ benefits from Paul’s lower pitched vocals, a feature he should use more often. The lush guitar chords playing alongside him are beautiful, as well as the deeper bass during the second half. The drumming is a bit underwhelming though, relying on the same pattern and the snare sound isn’t stellar. Like a shimmering light of dawn, ‘It Probably Matters’ puts a humane end to this dive bar trip. Although the marauder and his crew leave for some sunny beaches, he doesn't forget that one dear person and wishes they spent more time together. The steady rhythm accompanies this defeat, however, the more uplifting guitars suggest better times are to come.
In my opinion, the progress this album made is this persona Paul Banks assumes. He became less opaque, portraying a predominantly arrogant, egoistic character (and he definitely got some inspiration from Narcos), loosely described as an absurd extension of himself from years ago when he had certain debauched habits. Then again, you can never really tell what the man had in mind and how much fiction is added. Even so, this is warmer than the pragmatic, immovable, introverted, elitist corporate guy (or at least that’s the perspective I imagined being sung from) who calculated his every move and seemed unable of expressing joy without justifying it from all sides. It also depicts a band that’s trying to unwind a bit and it’s good news actually. So, ultimately, Marauder
cuts some sonic goodies in favor of a more tangible narrative. The songs have the standard Interpol quality, still, the highlights aren’t up there with the classic ones. It becomes better after a few listens, yet there’s some unexploited potential here I believe only hardcore fans will truly enjoy it.