Album review: Interpol – Interpol (Soft Limit)

Yes it's dark, cinematic and abstract, but sans Carlos D, the New Yorkers are lacking that little bit more

Introspection is a pleasure for yourself, but bloody boring for others. With [a]Interpol[/a], though, enigmatic brooding has been elevated to a glamorous state of being, the refined occupation of suave dandies in chilly hotel bars, along with champagne ennui and cocaine paranoia. But now, after completing their fourth album, [a]Interpol[/a]’s figurehead, Nosferatu bassist Carlos D, has slipped out the exit, perhaps in an effort to keep his dignity. For the mood of ‘Interpol’ is one of the party being over, and its eponymous title seems like a totem to cling to in an effort to hold the band together and wring something further from the last hours of the night.

As such the atmosphere is somnambulistic, and often soporific. Those hoping for that reported return to the tense, nervy excellence of debut ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ will be somewhat disappointed; these new songs often simply drift along, lost in their own world. ‘Interpol’ isn’t boring exactly, but its gold seams don’t reveal themselves easily.

The first two-thirds can be divided into two types of song: the slow-burning ones which don’t go anywhere, and the slow-burning ones which culminate pretty nicely, thank you. Of the former, ‘Success’ is a self-doubting trudge, ‘Lights’ a piano-led waltz which slowly chases its own tail, and ‘Safe Without’ trips over itself like a drunk with one shoe. Of the latter, ‘Memory Serves’ stirs some emotion as it builds to cold washes of guitar, and Paul Banks‘ weirdo vocals. ‘Lights’ achieves a similar feat with the same formula, and ‘Always Malaise (The Man I Am)’ adds one of Daniel Kessler’s trademark eerie guitar codas.

However, just as you’re about to give up, the final three songs, which make up what Carlos D no doubt called “a suite”, arrive to slide you on to the floor, turn off the lights and show you some magic. ‘Try It On’ is [a]Thom Yorke[/a]-ish, with a skittering beat, electronic pulses, and a malevolent piano line. It segues into the scalp-tickling ‘All Of The Ways’, which has Banks painfully sighing amid an epic Vangelis-style soundscape, and then ‘The Undoing’, which has the singer “chasing my damage”, discovering what’s been eating at him, and provides the big, revelatory, brass-led climax that’s previously been denied to us.

Overall, ‘Interpol’ seems cinematic, abstract and complex, but that adds up to something interesting rather than thrilling. Maybe once they’ve mapped out their future without Carlos, the band can look to regain the spark which once made them so darkly electric.

Martin Robinson

Click here to get your copy of Interpol’s ‘Interpol’ from Rough Trade Shops.