on 11 November 2002
Popular wisdom says that Interpol are a bunch of Joy Division copyists. Popular wisdom is wrong. If we're talking influences, yes, Joy Division are there - but so are Echo and the Bunnymen, the Chameleons, Teardrop Explodes, Bauhaus and perhaps most neglected of all Magazine. These guys know their New Wave. But they haven't given us a preserved tribute - they've taken the bleak, bracing vision, the wordy and intelligent lyrics and the fusion of electronics and conventional instruments in a distinctive direction themselves. Everything has been assimilated, processed, filtered through a distinctive attitude - and the result is as fresh and compelling an album as I've heard this year. Interpol conjure vast space inside their music, marrying epic guitar to rigorous, almost stifling percussion and keyboards. In the dramatic space between these, twisted lyrics have room to slide into your head.
This is powerful stuff. Occasionally, yes, I'll admit it, I find myself thinking that the ghosts of Martin Hannett and Ian Curtis must've been somewhere near the studio, but think of this as a beginning - a jumping-off point from whence Interpol will start producing music of unprecedented subtlety and power.
Low spots.... none.
High spots... "Obstacle 2" followed immediately by "Stella Was A Diver and She Was Always Down". If ever an album had a perceptible heart of darkness, these two tracks constitute one.
Remarkable, addictive, shiny, deadly, and unmissable.
So the New Rock Revolution, which has so far managed to effectively recycle late '60s psychedelia and blues, early '70s metal, late '70s punk and early '80s air guitar rock finally reaches the mid '80s and Joy Division, The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & the Bunnymen. Of all the UK-influenced US bands who have crashed our shores in the last 2 years, Interpol are the most English sounding and the ones with the greatest musical depth.
In terms of sound, they're closest to the Furs - although the occasional moments of light that cascaded through the Bunnymen's work are present here too, and there are nods back to the grandaddy of them all, Television as well. Yet, for all their repeated chords, strangled vocals, cymbal crashes and sudden silences, Interpol are very much their own band. They manage to sound very much like you imagined your favourite 80s bands sounded before you go back and listen to them again - only to find out that they didn't sound as good as this band do now. Their music is dynamic, heavily layered, and has genuine intelligence and depth and, like many of the best Pavement and Television tracks, their's often have occasional sounds or chords that chime through the darkness and provide a clear focal point for the apparent confusion and fear that reigns elsewhere.
The standout tracks are the opener, Untitled, with it's occasional power chord chopping through the gloom, NYC, and Stella was a diver and she was always down - but the whole album is very strong and focussed and works much better as a whole than as individual tracks. It's just a shame the excellent Specialist doesn't appear here.
Interpol are as relevant and important to the return of rock as The Strokes and The White Stripes and will be huge in the next two years - buy this record and you'll see why.
on 31 December 2002
The "New Rock Revolution" has brought with it no little energy, blood, sweat and toil. What it has lacked has been music of real depth. Sure, the 3 minute thrills of many of the "The" bands are exciting. But they smack you in the face. There's no follow through - nothing new to discover beyond the initial jaws dropped wow-factor. Then we have Interpol.
Interpol are a 4 piece from New York. However, they are not a garage rock band. They play music of a far more subtle nature; possibly bridging the gap between the likes of The Strokes and the Radiohead-influenced likes of Elbow and Leaves.
The opening track, Untitled, showcases their rather unique talents. A gentle lead riff plays out persuasively, before big, pounding, ponderous bass drums kick in. Over this singer Paul Banks insists "I will surprise you sometime". He already has.
Banks' voice is undeniably similar to Joy Division's Ian Curtis. It is a deep baritone, infused with longing, vulnerability and sadness. It provides the fulcrum upon which Interpol are balanced - whether during their more up-tempo moments, or their softer musings. Throughout his voice implies that there is something he's not telling us, and possibly himself.
Banks' lyrics are distinctly left-field, and full of odd obsessions ("You'll go stabbing yourself in the neck again", "The subway is a porno", "You're so cute when you're frustrated, dear. You're so cute when you're sedated"). At their best though, Banks touches on Curtis territory, and, unlike many others who have tried, doesn't get lost in self-pitying sludge. Lines such as "I can't pretend, I need to defend some part of me from you", "Heaven is never enough" and "Her rabid glow is like Braille to the night" are often lifted beyond what might be mere cliché, into something oddly moving and touching, due to the power of Banks' voice.
Bass and drums provide the music with a constant kicking, whilst the lead guitar is used to provide a warmer counter-point, in a kind of chiming Edge fuzzed-up way. If Joy Division made glacial music, then Interpol's is far less sparse and desolate, and is melting at the edges. It is also lovingly created. Parts of music which really should be choruses turn out to be simply verses, before another dazzling change happens in the music, and we're suddenly into eyes open wide, arms flung out, gorgeous choral confirmations.
Say Hello to the Angels bounces along like The Smiths on jangle-drugs. Obstacle 1 can't decide whether to be a slow, sad song, or a fast, bitter one, so it does both and then some. PDA rattles out of the cages, barely able to keep up with itself, before taking a breather and then rallying for the chorus. Obstacle 2 sways giddily along, oblivious to anyone or anything.
There are many moments of beauty that emerge gradually after repeated listens. Songs such as NYC, The New and Hands Away, which were originally lost amongst the head-down and charge nature of a lot of the album, begin to peak above the parapets, revealing themselves as tender, fragile confused moments.
The album is by no means perfect - you often get the sense of tricks being repeated towards the end of the album, no matter how good those tricks are. Yet, this still stands as perhaps the most exciting debut album of 2002. It is so far removed from its contemporaries, and the quality of the song-writing points to a very bright future for Interpol. Most importantly it contains songs that will not only punch you in the face, but will then coax you back up for more. That's what sets it apart.
I wasn't expecting such a superb album when I bought this. All I was going on was the track 'NYC' which in my view is the weakest on the album. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to it in full.
For me, this was the best album of 2002. I had been going through somewhat of an 'off' period with music, until I stumbled across this gem. Interpol are from New York, and England. Their influences can be seen through their music, Joy Division, Talking Heads, Gang of Four and a bit of Television too. But please don't let that make you think that they are just another one of these US bands who are currently ripping off past musical trends, Interpol are above all that. Whereas the likes of The Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Scandinavians', The Hives prefer to just recycle their influences again and again, and in truth they all sound the same in the end. But Interpol sound so different to all of the other groups from the US, and Europe, out there at the moment. That's why sold this album to me the most.
The album itself is a beautifully crafted mix of powerful drums, melodic, chiming guitar lines and wonderfully deep bass playing. These are all held together magnificently by lead singer Paul Bank's great voice (a little similar to Ian Curtis too). The lyrics on certain songs are rather basic and maybe a bit silly, but for a debut album you can forgive them that.
Standout tracks include the single 'Obstacle 1' and 'Say Hello to the Angels' . I went to see them live on their first ever visit here and they played brilliantly and entertained the small but appreciative crowd. They are coming back here in August so I'll be there again, along with a bigger crowd I would imagine!
Give this a spin on your stereo, it hasn't stopped on mine.
on 14 February 2003
This album is astounding. It's magnificent. It deserves medals. If I could have it's children I would.
I believe that this is the only album in a collection of 250 strong, which doesn't have any weak tracks. There isn't one of the 11 tracks that I would describe as merely very good. They are all fantastic. They show a musical sophistication which is extremely rare in this style of music. The rapidly developing harmonies are full of surprises, the drumming is excellent in it's subtlety, especially in 'Hands Away', the bass playing is regularly inspired and the singing is spot on.
This album needs time, however; the attraction isn't instant. I personally listened to this album a good half dozen times before I fell in love with it, so bare this in mind - give it a chance to grow.
I'm not gonna bother with comparisons as they've all been mentioned in the other reviews. It's also tricky to pick out high lights, but if pushed I'd say Obstacle 1 (tense, desperate, a stonking great chorus); PDA (see description of Obstacle 1 and add to it an absolutely gorgeous, ecstatic moment in the middle as all instruments begin to play again after all dropping out); Obstacle 2 (see Obstacle 1 and PDA (they're not samey, honest - they've just got a very distinct style)); Roland (see others); The New (calmer, slow moving, builds gradually into something magnificent); and all the other tracks too.
I'm telling you, this album is practically perfect - it's sophisticated, but still great to dance to and great to sing along to. I have listened to this album practically every day for the last four months... AND I'M STILL NOT SICK TO DEATH WITH IT, IN FACT I LOVE IT AS MUCH STILL! It's positively addictive!
Buy this album! This band deserve to be huge.
on 24 April 2004
This album is an incredible piece of work. I first got interested in thisband when I heard the numerous comparisons with Joy Division and they arecertainly not unwarranted. The band have a very similar sound to JoyDivision but I would say they are even better than Ian Curtis' lot! What Ialways found was lacking in Joy Division was really good melody and thatis what Interpol provide so well on tracks like NYC and Untitled. This isdefinitly a very down beat album but at the same time can be veryuplifting (the line in NYC 'It's up to me now, turn on the bright lights'is simply incredible) and this is also another bonus over Joy Division whonever really left their bleak and depressing style.
In short, if you want a simply incredible album that not only providespowerfully haunting melodies but also an amazing sense of hope, whilststill carrying the odd 'rock-out' moment, then buy this album now.
on 23 October 2006
"Turn on the bright lights" is indie, there's no doubt about that, but what makes it different is the dark, poetic, almost gothic feel that hangs around the entire album.
It opens with the haunting and very beautiful "Untitled," which soars around the room, encircling the listener and drawing them in, with its jittery guitars and smooth, sailng keyboards. Only a few lyrics are sung in this song, perhaps to gain the listener's full attention on the music itself. The song "Hands away," uses a similar technique. "Obstacle 1" is a contrast; it's loud, booming, more electric, and Carlos D's crunching and by no means hidden bassline is to die for. The lyrics of lust and longing make it emotional and powerful, with singer Paul Banks sounding like he's pouring his heart out at your feet.
"Say hello to the angels" is dark in terms of ambiguous lyrics that Banks is famous for, yet the music sounds sunny and cheerful, and if you're in the mood, you could even dance to it. Meanwhile, "Stella was a diver and she was always down" is a heart-rending poetic trip, the most tear-jerking song about a diver, infact the only song about a diver, I've ever heard. "The new," is misleading; quiet, relaxing, and peaceful, you think it's going to be a romantic serenade, when halfway through, it becomes a whole new song, with explosive guitar riffs and Sam Forgarino's apocalyptic drums. For anyone who thought Interpol weren't mosh-worthy, think again.
The album's closer, "Leif Erikson," is full of dispair, self-doubt, and more longing. When the song closes with the sound of haunting church organs, my personal opinion is that this album is outgoing and creative, and is definately worth listening to as an introduction to my favourite band, Interpol.
on 1 July 2006
Interpol are one of several bands who have surfaced among the current of new-wave inspired guitar bands in the last couple of years- (Franz Ferdinand et al), but before dismissing this group as yet more cleverly marketed retro-chic for "forty-quid bloke", it should be pointed out that this debut album is mighty impressive. Like most of the recent crop, they wear their influences on their sleeves. People mention Joy Division, which is unsurprising, but there are a lot of influences here- PiL, Sonic Youth, The Smiths, John Cale, New Order, and (apparently) The Psychedelic Furs (a band who I've never listened to but I'm sure their music never lived up to their name). But despite this, all these influences are filtered through Interpol's New York sensibility, and the album is a very consistent set of songs with plenty of highlights.
At first, the slow-burning opener Untitled, and Obstacle 2 caught my attention- the latter in particular, with its sleepy cadences reminiscent of John Cale. However, on repeated listening, the more up-beat, post-punk influenced numbers like PDA and Roland are equally impressive. But Interpol are also good at changing gear within the same song- Say Hello to the Angels kicks off like The Strokes covering This Charming Man, before the song drifts off on its own trajectory, while The New-which is one of the more ambitious songs on the album- starts off like fairly generic indie whining, before drifting into a Sonic-Youth type lull, before a gloriously off-key guitar buzzes away in manner which calls to mind Keith Levene of PiL, and, just when you've got used to this sudden shift, the song rounds off with a bitter-sweet guitar coda like something from New Order's Get Ready.
Only time will tell if this band are more than just a sophisticated pastiche of the new-wave era, but in the meantime, who cares? This is excellent stuff- gloomy, tense and also very well-produced.
on 11 November 2002
Interpol are at the very fore-front of the recent New York musical upsurge. With bands like the Strokes outlining their punk and new wave influences emphatically, Interpol offer a more laid back, melancholy take on this style. Filled with tuneful, brooding and stirring pieces of music, often bordering on anthemic, like 'NYC', and 'Leif Erikson' showing the spine tingling melodies that this fantastic new band are capable of producing.
As well as a definate 'new-wave' sound, Interpol recall the sound of early Suede records, and a style unarguably influenced by David Bowie. Often, especially in some of the guitar sounds, they do not sound unlike The Smiths, and with these fantastic influences, they couldn't fail to produce one of the most interesting and unique albums of the moment.
'Turn on the Bright Lights' was released in 2002 on the back of several singles-e.p.-releases, many pointing out the band were very influenced by the post-punk scene - something that has now become very trendy (Bloc Party, The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand, The Bravery, Radio 4 etc.)Everyone cites Joy Division in relation to Interpol- this is something that I just don't get as over their two-albums there is close to NOTHING that sounds like Joy Division (O.K. you can have the opening few seconds of drumming on PDA, but no more!). They don't have an OTT-Martin Hannett production like JD, have more oblique lyrics than despairing like JD, and have a sound that could be compared to many other post-punk acts (The Psychedelic Furs, The Chameleons, Echo & the Bunnymen), or alternative U.S. acts (Sonic Youth, Sebadoh- the vocals to 'Hands Away' are very Lou Barlow, Fugazi, The Wipers, Television, Guided By Voices etc)The comparisons to Joy Division just don't swing as far as I see...
'Turn on the Bright Lights' manages to nod to some of the above acts, yet retain a quality that makes you think you're listening to Interpol, and not some plagiaristic tribute band to Josef-K or Television (hello Franz Ferdinand & The Strokes!). It's an album that I have played constantly since and would definitely consider one of the classics of the decade thus far, alongside Wilco's 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot', The Magnetic Field's '69 Love Songs', GSYBE!'s 'Lift Yr Skinny Fists...', Tom Waits' 'Alice' & 'Mass Romantic' by The New Pornographers (I've probably left out loads of others...)'Turn on the Bright Lights' is one of those albums that I wish I didn't have and could happily purchase again with each visit to a record shop...
'Turn on...' is packed with classics, not a dud - though perhaps 'The Specialist' should have made it on? 'Untitled' is a huge-opener, reminding me of the feeling The Stone Roses' 'I Wanna Be Adored' gave as it built up on their debut. 'Obstacle 1', 'Roland', 'PDA' & 'Say Hello to the Angels' are all immense angular-joys - though the more experimental tracks 'Hands Away' & 'The New' point to the more complex sounds found on 'Antics.' 'The New' reminds me of Sonic Youth & Slint- though the part that builds up has screaming not unlike prime PIL.
The standout tracks are more melancholic- title-track 'NYC' (which has since been covered by REM), 'Stella was a driver and she was always down' & closing-track 'Leif Erikson.' The latter I think is Interpol's greatest song and already an all-time fave - the oblique lyrics having a deeper charm: "she says it helps with the lights out her rabid glow is like braille to the night/she swears I'm a slave to the detail but if your life is such a big joke, why should I care?/The clock is set for nine, but you know you're going to make it eight /she thinks that my sentimental side should be held with kid gloves she doesn't know that I left my urge in the icebox she swears I must pray for the female...The clock is set for nine, but you know you're going to make it eight..." 'Leif Erikson' builds and seems to overwhelm the melancholy, the music and lyrics shifting elsewhere ("this could be a good time") - ending on a transcendental note...
'Turn on the Bright Lights' is undoubtedly a classic, and I think in years to come, will be one of those classic-debut albums people cite. More, more...