Hype and publicity can often play both hero and villain for surging musical acts. It seems that as of late, certain artists and their respective popularity are the results of crafty PR work, major label dollars and upscale style and fashion rather than their work and music. NY’s Interpol might fit that mold – what, with their expensive haircuts and tailored suits it’s easy to dismiss them as another clever marketing scheme. Do we have to brace ourselves for The Strokes all over again? Thankfully, the only similarity between Interpol and The Strokes is the probability that they have taken a cab in NYC. No, Interpol have been around for quite some time in fact, toiling in obscurity before Matador picked them up and released a short self titled EP.
While the reviews and buzz surrounding their full length effort Turn On the Bright Lights has been overwhelmingly positive, it is with merit and justification. Upon feasting your ears on this eerie, enigmatic triumph, you can easily understand why so many will feature this as a year’s favorite. It is powerful, vibrant, moody and dark while evoking similarities to the likes of Joy Division. To the untrained ear (read: Joy Division? Never heard of them) Interpol’s full length is chock full of bristly guitars, chunky beats and rhythms that are complimented by Paul Banks oft gloomy but very vibrant voice. Loaded with the very accessible (their single “PDA”, replete with foot tapping beats and some loose sounding guitar work), almost tragic sounding (the opening “Untitled”) and a mish mash of punk sensibilities and relentless echo-like melancholia, Turn On the Bright Lights simply oozes musical sophistication.
Traces of Strokes-esque arrangements may be found in “Say Hello to Angels”, but there is nothing “retro” about it. It in fact, paced by the frenetic vocals is more akin to modern dark room ambience and post-‘whateveryoulike’ music. In “Obstacle 1”, Banks’ fades in and out of harsh vocals while the music is often just as energetic – it however paints a brooding, glum picture in one’s mind when listening to it. It is quite unlike the track “NYC”, while it is delightfully composed, its lyrics are quite strange and awkward. After the first listen, it sounded as if Banks was singing about porno and the subway – and upon lyrical investigation, he does in fact sing, “The subway she is a porno.” Maybe this reviewer just isn’t hip enough to understand.
Nevertheless, in painting an entire picture, Interpol has more than lived up to whatever hype may have preceded them. They remain truly passionate to their work and the collection they title Turn On the Bright Lights is a beacon of their triumph. While Matador (having once “sold their souls to the devil” – their “partnership” with Atlantic back in the early to mid 90’s) is by no means a mega corporation in the music industry, they are well tested in it. Perhaps that is why some may suspiciously question the hype and press, but in reality it is the music of Interpol that has created this often two faced enigma. In this case, the face of hype is that of a hero.