Interpol, ‘Interpol’ – First Listen

True to form, Interpol have given fans only partial, contradictory clues about what to expect from their forthcoming album.

One half of the band suggested the new album would be more orchestral and bits of it were like “nothing they’d done before”, while the half other alluded to the album “falling back” to the atmospherics and scope of their debut.

The bassist recorded his parts then departed, while a Secret Machine, among others, has joined the live show.

Well, the dark swirling clouds (which let’s face it, you’d miss if they weren’t there) have parted and finally we have the light: a copy of Interpol’s fourth album in our grasp. Here is our initial, first-listen reaction to ‘Interpol’.

The opening track proves that both halves of Interpol were probably right about their new album’s direction. How? Well, Daniel Kessler’s guitar is back to its brutal, resonating best, carving out a stark atmosphere at the centre of this pacy opener, yet with subtle keyboards, unexpected falsettos and energetic bass, there’s an intricate maelstrom that forms in the spaces he creates. Elaborate, head-spinning, but as cinematic as Interpol’s best.

Memory Serves
After the abrupt stop of the opener, a nerve-shattering guitar opens this more stately march. “Only at your place,” frontman Paul Banks croons as the sound pounds forward, growing in tension, before it unfolds into a more expansive effort. “Why is it so hard to stay away,” a choir of Bankses later asks as the song soars to a loud crescendo, before giving way a fragile, piano-led ending, with Banks conceding, “Baby you don’t have to say that you’d love to/ only that you want to/ some day…”

Summer Well
Oscillating around a pumping bass, echoed by brittle keys and eventually relentless guitar, the twitching instruments brings to mind ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, but ‘Summer Well’ possesses a more enveloping melody then its predecessors. In fact Banks’ vocals drive the song forward like they did on second album ‘Antics” ‘Not Even Jail’, making this one of the album’s most intricate yet singalong-friendly tracks.

The pre-album teaser download sits snugly in the first half of ‘Interpol’. The guitars rattle onwards with an urgent precision like subway trains, leaving Banks to urgently croon: “That’s why I hold you near” as the song reaches its climax. Yet before it explodes, as its been hinting it would since the opening notes, ‘Lights’ instead fades out gently, leaving ridges of tension behind it.

Opening with the rhythm section taking charge – raw drums, teasing bass – before the twitching guitars join in to serenade them, ‘Barricade’ shares the same space and rawness of Interpol’s early work, feeling like a distant, yet distinctive cousin of acclaimed early release ‘The Specialist’.

‘Always Malaise (The Man I Am)’
Opened by Banks and a fragile piano, the accompaniment of a lone keyboard calls to mind the heartbreaking closer of ‘Our Love To Admire’, ‘The Lighthouse’. However an expected warmth flows in around the chorus as Interpol’s frontman sounds both powerful and powerless as he sings: “I will act in a certain way, I will control what I can, that’s the man I am/It pains me to say and I do what I can, that’s the man I am”.

Safe Without
Built around a classic Daniel Kessler riff, ‘Safe Without’ remains achingly stark throughout. Those atmospherics are enhanced further with Banks repeatedly singing “I am safe without it”, working the track up a hypnotic frenzy.

Try It On
No guitars, at least to start with, make ‘Try It On’ something of a departure for Interpol. Not only is the riff taken by a piano, but Sam Fogarino’s drumming combines with Bank’s warmest vocal on the album to give the song a very human heart. When the guitars – and the odd electro bleep – do finally chime in, it’s long, strong chords that add a euphoric quality to the song. An unexpected twist.

All Of The Ways
If there’s overriding term to describe the whole of ‘Interpol’ it’s probably something like “metallic” or “shimmery” – something ‘All Of The Ways’ best encapsulates. Like a gathering storm, Banks’ repeated line: “I know the way you will make it up, make it up for me” is more unnerving for the lack of threat in voice, while an ominous bass, crashing guitars and church organs recall Interpol’s best nighthawk moments. If the end of the world ever needs a theme tune, this would work.

The Undoing
After the doom of the previous song, the bright guitar riff that opens ‘Interpol”s closing track feels almost like a solitary ray of sunlight as ‘The Undoing’ scratches into life. Banks’ vocals are also sound vaguely optimistic, that is until he switches into Spanish. It almost feels as if the singer is divided against himself.

The deep Latin half sounds almost devilish, while anguished cries of “please!” punctuate the brooding storm. And with that ‘Interpol’ fades out, leaving the band as atmospheric and dark as they were on their debut, and yet more intricate, and – as the trumpets prove – orchestral. See they were both right.

‘Interpol’ is released in September