- Vancouver, British Columbia - My introduction to Interpol was back in 2003 with Turn on the Bright Lights. My first impression was to say, “Man, these guys sound like The Tragically Hip.” It wasn’t a negative comment, and I was quickly gripped by songs like "PDA" and "Obstacle 1." The album very quickly became a favourite of mine, and I refused to give the copy my brother was lending me back to him until I had bought my own (which wasn’t too long).
Antics wasn’t too far behind, but I was still very much enraptured with their debut album, and wasn’t impressed with the follow-up. It came as some surprise to me that Antics was rated so highly and that when most of my peers thought of Interpol, they thought of "Narc" or "Evil" from that album. Meanwhile, I was caught in the beauty in the structure of Turn On… Actually, it’s been only recently I picked up Antics after finding some charm in some of the tracks.
In fact, I had bought their third album Our Love to Admire as soon as it came out, so that I could nab the special edition. I was pretty happy with the album, but still felt it couldn’t match up to their debut. That being said, in 2008 my brother and I went to see them while at the Sasquatch Music Festival. The performance was cut a little short due to technical and weather issues, but I was pretty satisfied.
That brings us to the present. I missed the lead-in single to Interpol’s self-titled album, "Lights," entirely but got hooked when the single "Barricade" was released. What a great video! Upon hearing it, I knew the album must be mine so as soon as I had some funds, I ran out to buy it.
I find it interesting that this album is self-titled. Firstly, even though the band is based out of New York City, the only member from New York (the bassist Carlos D.) left right after the completion of this album. So you’ll hear him contributing, but he’s absent from the videos and touring. They knew he was going, so did they intentionally give this album that title, as if to assure us that the band was still around? Or maybe it’s a benchmark that they felt needed to be marked in their career, like Metallica, the Beatles, and Duran Duran did with their self-titled albums?
As an aside, those three groups’ self-titled albums have subtitles the fans use: The Black Album, the White Album, and the Wedding Album respectively. What will Interpol come to be known as then, the Explosion Album?
Imagine my surprise when I surf to my good friend Metacritic.com to see what critics and fans think, and find that Interpol is the lowest rated album by Interpol! I was pretty perplexed. It hasn’t been lambasted or anything, but rather 66%, which translates to a high average. For most reviewers, it seems Interpol peaked with Antics and has steadily gone downhill.
I find myself feeling quite contrary to this assessment. I believe at this point, after several months and many repeat listenings, that Interpol is second only to Turn on the Bright Lights.
There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, I think structure is huge component. The album opens on the track "Success," with its almost foreshadowing lines: “I have succeeded/I won’t compete for long/I’m not supposed to show you.”
To me, it seems like they are opening the album stating that even though this album might not be top of the charts or a big breakthrough for them, they consider the works that follow to be a success regardless. And to have the most upbeat song, "Barricade," in the middle of the album was a wise choice; it breaks some of the tension from the first half, and leads into the calmer mood of the second half. For that matter, in the second half, the tracks link together subtly as if they are extensions of the same idea. And to top it all off the final track, "The Undoing," we are left with the thoughts I’ve included at the end of this review.
Musically, I find the album a little more experimental than their previous works. Turn on the Bright Lights was an art album, where the musicians all put their instruments together in a collage exploring their talents. Antics could easily be described as an album where a bunch of rock songs were put together to fit a mood. Our Love to Admire is a dark rock opera; a soundtrack to a film never conceived exploring themes of death and love. But here on Interpol, the band has lightened up a bit and has shown a proclivity to exploring new sounds and expressions. I hear flirtations with electronica, fooling around with a piano, and manipulation of the mixings through production. Ironically, an album that takes its name from the band may be a departure album for the band.
As for the videos, they’re quite fascinating. "Lights" and "Barricade" are quite different from each other and explore different facets of the album. "Lights" was to show us a darkness and a raw sensuality, introducing the album to us. In fact, it’s an unsatisfying video all in all, because we’re left wondering what more there is to happen to the strange woman. I believe this is deliberate, as "Lights" is an unsatisfying song in a lot of ways. It starts a buildup that does not resolve, and I guarantee you’ll be called back. "Barricade" shows the band playing in a desert and against lights, and with some cool in-camera tricks. In this video, they advertise their energy, and the new directions they are going in. The two videos contrast each other, and on the album the songs are back to back.
I really enjoy this album and I feel that even though it’s gotten high average reviews, it is underappreciated. Slap on the headphones and take it for a spin, as I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The place we’re in now
I will wait
The place we’re in now
I will wait”
Rating: 4.5/5 Sour Grapes