“Surprise, sometimes, will come around,” Paul Banks pined on ‘Untitled’, the opener to Interpol’s classic 2002 debut ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, which set the template for the gloom, tension and atmosphere that has seen the band through six records of well-honed art-rock. And while the suited-and-booted New Yorkers have rarely strayed too far from their winning formula, Banks has himself been known for a surprise or two along the way.
In 2016 he and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA released a collaborative album, ‘Anything But Words’, under the guise of Banks & Steelz. While it had its moments, it was far from the rap-rock revolution you might have expected – but it did show that there was a lot more to Banks than meets the eye.
His latest meeting of minds sees the Interpol crooner join forces with Josh Kaufman (of folk band Bonny Light Horseman) and Matt Barrick (drummer with The Walkmen and ill-fated indie legends Jonathan Fire*Eater). Yes, it’s a super-group – but without a lot of the bluster, ego and self-indulgence that often comes with the territory. Velvet Revolver they are not.
On this debut, Muzz play with a warm classic rock vibe that calls to mind the crackling of vinyl as the needle drops. Opener ‘Bad Feeling’ features angelic vocals, keys and horns, while ‘Evergreen’ boasts waltzing psychedelia; it’s Flaming Lips with a little more subtlety. The rattling Americana of album highlight ‘Red Western Sky’ establishes the record as a widescreen adventure: “Thereʼs a team from the east and theyʼre trying to pull me back and Iʼm dragging my feet/but when I get that check man Iʼm gonna fire it/The bees in the frying pan/The shards in the carpet,” Banks sings.
It’s this otherworldly twist on familiar flavours that makes ‘Muzz’ such a joyous listen. ‘Broken Tambourine’, ‘How Many Days’ and ‘Everything Like It Used To Be’ evoke open-road ‘70s rock, with a little Neil Young. It’s a shame, then, that the dirge-like ‘Patchouli’ and ‘Summer Love’ cause the album to drag slightly.
Still, this is a bold and classy debut. ‘Chubby Checker’ is serene and filmic, ‘Knuckleduster’ is a surefire set-closer and ‘All Is Dead To Me’ has a blissful closing wig-out. Banks, Kaufman and Barrick prove far more than the sum of their parts, turning on a bright light of their own.
Release date: June 5
Record label: Matador