When your first album is Turn on the Bright Lights, getting back to those heights is a nigh-impossible feat. Perhaps unfairly, every subsequent Interpol release has been and will be compared to their debut. I was one of the few who actually liked third album Our Love to Admire, but even I can admit that it had some clunkers (I’m looking at you, ‘The Scale’). Truthfully, I think the jump to a major label was part of the reason for the backlash. Though made with major label dollars, the self-titled album returns the band to Matador Records. Pre-release interviews suggested a return to the sound of Bright Lights, which is partially true.
The subject matter is desperate. The album cover is the band’s logo shattered, perhaps a comment on bassist Carlos D, who appears on the album, but left the band shortly after recording. The lyrics are about as obscure as they’ve ever been, but I don’t take bad lyrics to be a valid criticism. ‘Say Hello to the Angels’ contains the line “Your hair is so pretty and red / baby baby you’re really the best.” Interpol’s lyrics have always read like bad poetry, I consider that to be part of the charm.
Perhaps ironically due to Carlos D’s recent departure, the bass presence is considerably upped, one of the many knocks against Our Love to Admire. ‘Barricade’ serves as a showcase for the rhythm section in general, and is the obvious highlight of the album. The crack in Paul Banks’ voice during the backing vocals of “you know us…” serves as one of those memorable musical moments that just lets the emotion bleed through. However, for all its goodness, ‘Barricade’ also marks a turning point for the album. Taken on their own, the following five tracks are perfectly adequate, but they all share a dirge-like tone that causes them to flow into each other. It’s a dark, slow album that would definitely benefit from having some time to sink in, and perhaps an upbeat track or two.
It’s likely their weakest album yet, but tracks like ‘Success’, ‘Summer Well’ and ‘Lights’ show they still have some more music to offer. Given the departure of a key member, I’m curious to see what the future holds for Interpol, whether they’ll incorporate touring members Dave Pajo (Slint, Zwan, etc) and Benjamin Curtis (The Secret Machines) into the band, whether they’ll continue as a three-piece, or whether they’ll simply call it a day to focus on other projects. Interpol isn’t the best note to end a career on, but I still contend they haven’t made a bad album, and hopefully we haven’t heard the last of them.