Review by Dillinger Kash
First off, no… it’s not as good as the first two albums. But it’s definitely up there. Ranking it among the band’s now six albums this would fall above “El Pintor” but below “Antics” in my opinion. (Turn On The Bright Lights being number one of course and Antics second.) While it’s not the first two albums, it is very much a welcome return after a four-year absence and a wonderful follow-up to 2014’s “El Pintor.”
As many wise people have said, if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. Interpol has lived by this as they’ve never really tried to change anything about their sound over the years. When you buy an Interpol album… you’re going to get an Interpol album. (No sudden changes to synthesizers and drum machines here.) This is a common complaint about the group, but while a lot of their contemporaries have gone on to progress their sound to the point of being unrecognizable, Interpol have stayed the course. And this is ok in my book. The new album feels familiar. Like an old blanket that you pull out every fall when the weather gets cold and you find it’s just as comforting as you remember it being last year… or the year before that… or the decade before that.
The boys seem to have found a little bit of that fire again to make things exciting. Daniel Kessler’s guitars are played with a refreshing sharpness that has not been heard in a while. Sam Fogarino’s drum playing is in top form with some intricate beats and at times drives the songs to pace that feels like it could go off the rails at any moment. Paul Banks’ voice is as confident and commanding as ever. Everything is brought together by producer Dave Fridmann (Yes that Dave Fridmann from Flaming Lips fame) who brings in a fitting production style. He retains the band’s signature sounds but adds little subtle touches that change things up a bit. For starters, bass is back. For those folks that have been missing Carlos D’s bass playing ever since he left the band (or when his bass lines started being more shoved into the background) should be somewhat appeased here. Dave Fridmann has pushed the bass out a bit more into the mix than it previously has been for a while. This is a good thing as it appears Paul did some studying on what made Carlos D’s bass lines so well liked and has tried to match that. He’s still not at the level of Carlos’ playing but he’s coming closer. There are plenty of moments where the bass jumps around or changes to an octave you didn’t expect it to go.
The album has a very strong collection of songs. Highlights from this album would include the opening track of the album “If You Really Love Nothing,” which really kicks things off with a rolling drumbeat complimented by a thundering bass and arpeggio guitars. The second song “The Rover” is a faster paced rocker that would be in line with “All The Rage Back Home” from “El Pintor.” The track features some interesting background vocals that are so drowned in reverb that they sound very otherworldly. “Complications” has a catchy yet sinister bounce. “Flight of Fancy” grooves along and features a little breakdown moment which Interpol has been doing fewer of since their third album. “Stay In Touch” features a guitar riff that reminds me of one of my favorite Interpol songs “Narc.” “Surveillance” is a breath of fresh air from the rest of the album’s heaviness with its twinkling guitar and the bass being played high on the neck. The drums are also played quite a bit less aggressive than on the rest of the album making for a quieter groove that builds tension as it comes to the end. “Number 10” is another rocker that starts off with distant delayed guitars before exploding into the verse. There are also some interesting guitar layers here that piqued my interest as some of the guitars were using an octave pedal turned up to the higher end. This was a staple sound for one of my all time favorite bands “Failure” and it was exciting to hear Interpol incorporate this sound. Finally the album closes off with “It Probably Matters” which is by far my favorite song on the album. One of my favorite things about this band has always been their closing songs (the self titled album excluded). This particular song is definitely contending to be my favorite closing song by the band up to this point. The track is like a more upbeat version of “A Time To Be Small” from “Antics” and features a build up and release that is reminiscent of “Leif Erikson” from “Turn On The Bright Lights.” The lyrics are very interesting as well. Normally I don’t pay much attention to Interpol’s lyrics as they just never seem that interesting to me. (I mean we are talking about a band whose lyrics for the chorus on the song “PDA” were lifted from a furniture store commercial.) However, the lyrics on this one are interesting, as they seem to tell a story of someone who suppresses their anger until it comes to the surface in ugly ways. Some of the lyrics give the impression that the person the song is about was not very good at showing they cared for their loved one and spent more time doing “the medicine” instead. The character seems to be admitting that yeah, it probably mattered that they were not there emotionally for the other person.
Overall the album is very solid. My only complaint would be the lack of epic breakdowns and jam parts that were so prominent on “Turn Out The Bright Lights.” Also missing are the great choruses that were on albums like “Antics” and even “Our Love To Admire,” but don’t let this deter you. Make no mistake, this is a very good Interpol album with a lot to like. If you’ve liked the band’s past efforts or have not been too thrilled with their more recent offerings, you should give this one a listen. If you’re new to Interpol, I would still recommend the first two albums. But this isn’t a bad place to start either.