Interpol’s new record has all the hallmarks of a comeback/‘we’re sorry we left’ record. Returning to their original independent label (Matador), after leaving it for a major (Capitol)? Check. That major label record, 2007’s Our Love To Admire (QRO review), being a poorly received one? Check. Self-titled? Check. Interpol even follows singer/guitarist Paul Banks’ solo jaunt as ‘Julian Plenti’ (QRO tour review) and his (Matador) release, …Is Skyscraper (QRO review). And while Interpol cannot reach the band’s early heights, when neo-New Wave was new, it’s a return to their sound and pretty much the Interpol you were looking for.
2002 debut Turn On the Bright Lights not only put Interpol on the map in a big way, but it also brought both the New Wave revival and New York’s Lower East Side into the indie picture. Since then, neo-New Wave has crested & fallen & more, now just one of many sounds in the indiesphere, while alternative musicians have largely decamped from the gentrified Lower East Side for the gentrifying Williamsburg in Brooklyn (and even farther afield, as even Williamsburg gets too pricey). Interpol’s ‘return’ faces a much more crowded arena, as well as fans who want their old Interpol back. While Interpol fails to truly get over the top and spark like Bright Lights did, it is the sound that Bright Lights fans wanted.
From opener “Success” to closer “The Undoing”, Interpol’s Interpol sounds like, well, Interpol. Dark and tragic with heavy bass from (since-departed) bassist Carlos Dengler and Banks’ baritone, and compelling, higher guitars from guitarist Sam Fogarino, Interpol is consistently strong, even as few tracks stand out. The back half sees a bit more change, more restrained with “Always Malaise (The Man I Am)”, more stripped to sharpness on “Safe Without”, more atmospheric in “Try It On”, and a reduced, epic echo to “All of the Ways”, but the singular, easy standout/single is middle piece “Barricade”, which revives the Interpol evocative call.
If Interpol isn’t Turn On the Bright Lights, it also isn’t Our Love To Admire – it’s the album between those two, 2004’s Antics. Forgotten amid the greatness of the former and decline of the latter, Antics was a good-if-not-as-great continuation of Bright Lights, without the strongest moments, but neither a slip like Admire nor a carbon-copy retread like the second (and subsequent) Strokes albums. Is Interpol a ‘comeback’? It depends on what you think they need to come back to. It is it a ‘return to form’? Definitely.
MP3 Stream: “Barricade”