The splintered pieces which spell the word Interpol across the cover of the New York band’s self-titled fourth album tell a story in themselves. In the wake of the departure of iconic bassist Carlos D, who left the band soon after recording this album, Interpol’s future is uncertain. In the meantime, David Pajo (Slint, Zwan) assumes bass duties and Brandon Curtis (Secret Machines) joins on keyboards.
Interpol’s musical progression has seemed a natural one, the band members themselves held together by a watertight bond. If the bristling conflict of energy, gloominess and soundscapes of Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics established Interpol in the early part of the last decade, 2007’s Our Love To Admire conjured even grander feats, fanning out their sound to a scale fit for arenas.
This fourth album hovers across these territories in a handsomely familiar but less confined way. Those trademark angular hooky riffs ring out as Success opens the album. The epic sweep of Memory Serves picks up from Our Love To Admire delightfully. Summer Well is classic Interpol – all bouncy Carlos D basslines, intricate and overlapping rhythmic layers leading into catchy hooks and big choruses.
Joy Division comparisons have become something of an itch that Interpol can’t reach, and lead single Lights will probably reinforce such references with its deep atmospherics and build-ups wrapped around Paul Banks’ baritone voice.
Barricade is a not too distant cousin of Obstacle One and Slow Hands, though more uplifting, and it’s reflective of Banks’ habitually bewildering lyrics. “I would not just leave you without a kiss,” he sings. “But I guess there must come a time, when there’s no more tears to cry. Thieves and snakes need homes.”
Banks’ recent solo foray as Julian Plenti bleeds out in small doses. Safe Without, perhaps the weakest song on the album, sounds like a cutting-room demo from those sessions with its dreary, recycled verses.
Try It On follows, signalling the more experimental nature of the album as piano and drum accompaniments trade turns and Banks’ looped vocals wander in between them. It’s the most heavily produced song on the album and blends slowly into All Of The Ways. Here the mood darkens as organs, horns, and synths take hold and Banks quivers about a bitter sounding breakup: “Baby tell me it’s hard to fake it time after time. Baby who is this guy? Does he say that he’d like to know you? Does he say that he wants to know?”
These dynamics continue on the final song, The Undoing, with the addition of drum loops, Daniel Kessler’s resplendent string work, and Banks alternating between English and Spanish. It all comes together uniquely to create one of the band’s most ambitious songs to date. Interpol mostly deliver on this album with what they do best, sprinkling some of their most creative moments across it. If this is a schism, it’ll be intriguing to see what happens when the pieces eventually do settle.