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.