nterpol just begs to be hated. Everything about them, from their reliance on post-punk heroes of days past, to their affiliations with some of indie’s most elite labels. Not to mention their dapperly Gothic fashion sense. Oh yeah, the hype, too. And those haircuts...good god damn, those haircuts. Christ, even the Strokes had their affable presence going for them. Yes, the books certainly are stacked against this NYC quartet, but luckily enough, they came armed with one of the best albums of the year. Turn On The Bright Lights a tour de force of indelible musicianship that finds Interpol synthesizing the best of their mope-chic forefathers in a striking marriage with modern rock ideas. Anyone who hates them for utilizing their influences just isn’t listening hard enough.
There are moments during this album when the jarring snap of the music resonates with the icy din of anguish and alienation, and others when its yearning melodies comfort with the warmth of security and understanding. Interpol take their music above and beyond the realm of updating old sounds and feelings-- they’re capable of creating and expressing their own. Although, the band’s greatest hardship lays ahead in creating a broader yet consistent body of work, Turn On The Bright Lights is a more than convincing start.
The eerie, repetitive “Untitled” opens the album on an aptly deceiving note; not all of the band’s strengths are present. Although that may just convince some to turn the album off, those who hear it through will be greeted with an incredibly engaging panoply of skill and emotion. While singer Paul Banks’ sonorous pipes are most evident, it is the rhythm section of bassist Carlos Dengler and drummer Sam Fogarino that ultimately makes this album. On the exquisitely terse “Obstacle 1”, perhaps the best song here, their interplay is mind-boggling; every nuance and inflection in Banks’ voice is mimicked. The final effect is nothing less than a relaying of the song’s bitter nervousness from the musicians to the listener. “PDA”, held over from the EP, blends seamlessly with the newer material. The track is all brusque trepidation until the angelic coda blows shards of energy every which way until nothing but an paranormal tranquility is left.
Lest the record descend into somber languish, “Say Hello To Angels” and “Roland” arrive to offer a rollicking respite from the taut angst of other songs. Sure, the subject matter is relatively uniform, but rather than playing the songs like they’ve got guns to their heads, the group brings a more danceable element into the fold. On “Hands Away“, however, the rocking gives way to an intensely lugubrious silence. The mellotron strings bring detached drama into the formula. The song is cold and uninviting; you’re not asked to wallow in Banks’ melancholy, you’re forced to watch it unfold. Where that track enforces distance, “NYC” extends condolence, with its deliberate tempo and uplifting chorus. Later on, “The New” finds Banks at his most vulnerable, at least until the vitriolic second half. “Leif Eriksen” mirrors the replication “Untitled” and closes the album with an encompassing sense of triumph in the face of despair.
No, Interpol isn’t the best band to emerge this year. No, Turn On The Bright Lights is not the breakthrough album of our time-- it’s not even the best of the year (the band manages to under reach their ambitions on the one-sided “Obstacle 2” and “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down”). And no, they’re not taking music in any new directions. But what they are doing is sparking a renewed interest in some of the greatest band and recordings of our time, and making one hell of a good racket while doing so.
Reviewed by: Colin McElligatt
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01