Review Summary: [i]The Black EP[/i] is a good showcase of Interpol's talents. Live versions of their debut album [i]Turn On The Bright Lights[/i] take up two thirds of the 6 tracks here, and while the songs are all executed correctly by the band, poor production hurts th
I have no idea what EP stands for. Several phallic jokes come to mind, which I've used when discussing music to a half hearted chuckle or a fat ***-you finger, but I've never actually took the time to look up what it means. For fanboys, collectors, and other assorted musical geeks, finding an EP is like finding gold: it's underground, rare, and leads to cannabalism. For the rest of humanity, they're skipped over for the "real music" that shows up on the albums. This is a silly mistake by you, casual listener America. EP's are cheap, and often carry some of the bands best material, if not rawer demo versions of tracks too polished up for their own good. Some bands can pull off a mean EP; NOFX comes to mind, and maybe even Straylight Run. Others can't. This brings me to Interpol. Interpol actually has an impressive catalog of EP's, but mostly they are half-assed efforts littered with nay a golden B-Side to be found. The accompanying EP to Interpol's stellar debut Turn On The Bright Lights
, is one of those. The Black EP
is, in a matter of words, the band playing a third of their material to a small crowd, a demo, and an album cut. In short: A single with a lot of bonus material. That said, Interpol pulls it off. I suppose one could consider releasing an EP with so much live material on it could be considered a gutsy move: Should Interpol suck live, showcasing that on a disc won't get you many concert junkies. But the NY quartet does seem up to the task for the most part, and The Black EP
becomes exactly what the fanboys and collectors are looking for: Rare ***.
Interpol's sound is different then most indie bands. Then again, seemingly every indie band sounds different then most indie bands. Interpol's sound is hyptnozing, crescendoing, monotonous, and a bit creepy. Read The Shining
and follow it up with Bright Lights
' "The New" for a real trip. Not that Interpol lyrically has anything attatched with the darker realms of the underworld, they merely write simple songs about girls. But smooth lines get twisted with a harsh delivery and dissonance in the background. Lyrics like "She feels that my sentimental side should be held with kids gloves" off of "Leif Erikson" seem simple enough, but are chillingly haunting with echoing effects and a sustained innocence in the guitars. It's a great studio trick, to induce that feeling. On The Black EP
, Interpol gets to showcase their twisted love songs in an intimate setting, and actually don't lose that feeling. The four tracks shown live are four of Interpol's darkest tunes, and they all feel that way when listening to them. Interpol's live versions are nearly exactly the same as their album versions, save for an adlib and crack or two by vocalist Paul Banks. The complicated structures of Obstacle 1
are well intact here, and the unpredictable nature of the songs remain that way. With the hopeless way Banks sighs "She puts the weights in my heart" and the eery falsetto he uses to affirm "She breaks down" towards the end of the song, it's hard not to get sucked into the dark swirl. The steady forward push by rhythm sectionists Carlos D and Sam Fogarino work impeccably as usual to create that black hole. This sound is what separates Interpol from that typical NY indie crowd. Instead of jamming and smoking for hours, Interpol's sound matches their look: clean cut, precise, and black.
While The Black EP
may seem choppy in basically putting the songs from Turn On The Bright Lights
in a different order with different recordings, but as a unit, the EP seems interestingly cohesive. Songs such as Specialist
are both slyly catchy in their monotony, particularly Specialist
's harmonies and rare Daniel Kessler guitar solo. Specialist
is on British version where it's a bonus track. It's a charming song, with Banks innocently asking "If I get there early, would it be the right time... and If I get too surly, would you take that in stride"" the song revolves around one note and builds underneath it. The breakdown at the end showcases percussionist Sam Fogarino's chops with high-hat rolls and improvised fills, leading to a definitive EP highlight.
The musicianship of the NY quartet is unwavering on the EP, but the production is where The Black EP
falls flat. The apex of Leif Erikson
is it's guitar solo- the point in the song where it finally "gets there" after a few minutes of lulling one into a dull sense of security. With the solo lacking the volume and potency it had on the album cut, Leif Erikson
leaves the listener feeling awkwardly disappointed. The same issue comes up with a demo cut of NYC
, where Paul Banks' voice is even more spacey then on the album. With the drums being too emphasized, they seem more intrusive than background. The hopeless line "Got to be some more change in my life" is almost lost completely in the abrasive percussion. Interpol's sound relies heavily on that clean production to make it's sound work and the NYC
demo sounds exactly like a demo, and it falls flat because of it.
The Black EP
has it's fair share of moments on it, without a doubt. Album snoozer PDA
is a beast live, with Fogarino dirtying up his playing with open high hat, and Banks does his best Ian Curtis imitation (it had to come up somewhere) on the opening line "This the only version of my desertion that I could ever subscribe to." The verses prod along, but the chorus actually has some meat to it with an echo effect used by Interpol on several live tracks, and the 2 minute playfully sad a capella guitar solo seems a fitting conclusion to such an EP.
With only 4 live songs and nothing unheard by the world before, it seems that The Black Session (as Interpol calls the live versions on this EP) isn't worth the price of admission [/bad joke]. However, if you can find it, and you're mildly into Interpol's soundscaping guitars and twisted love stories, it's worth a try. Paul Banks voice isn't stellar live, but it's damn not horrible either. Interpol's musicianship is typically tight, and Carlos D and Sam Fogarino are two of the best at what they do. However, poor production and a lack of originality doom The Black EP
to be forgotten along with the other EP's Interpol has released. So in short, The Black EP
is nothing classic, but a good pickup for the looking for live Interpol songs and demos.
Band Geeks rejoice.