Interpol - Our Love To Admire
Bill Cummings 29/07/2007
Comparisons, us music writers are full of them. It's often easier to say X sounds a bit like Y, than to go into Lester Bangs-esque, never ending descriptive haze with every new review. But sometimes a comparison is used so often that it outlives its usefulness; they become lazy shorthand and it becomes a cliché. Take New York four-piece Interpol for example: when they first emerged near the start of the millennium amidst a slew of lesser '80s English indie inspired acts (The Departure, The Killers, The Editors), many compared them ad infinitum to Manchester's finest post punks Joy Division. Listening back to their initial single releases (Obstacle 1, PDA) one can understand why: the rumbling visceral power of their more up-tempo moments bristled with a similar intensity, while front man Paul Banks' darkly melancholic baritone certainly cast a ghostly wink towards Ian Curtis. But listening to their atmospheric debut “Turn on the Bright Lights” in one complete sitting it quickly became clear that this was a slightly limiting reference; Interpol were a modern rock band, placing their influences like the '70s new wave acts (Television et al) and '80s English indie (The Chameleons) into a modern setting, atmospherically expansive, ambitious and dramatic: shining a spot light on the sad underbelly of the dark city streets. With their follow up, 2004's rather hit and miss dance beats of “Antics”, it had become clear that Interpol as an entity were drained, constant recording on tour led to a record that briefly flickered (Slow Hands, C'mere) but was largely too obvious, too commercial in terms of arrangement, and too straightforward for many.
Their new album is still recognisably Interpol, but the song structures are subtler, the edges are sharper, the rhythms are leaner, comparable in scope of the work of the Cure, or mid-period REM, songs that reveal themselves on repeated listens. Keyboard and brass has been added to the mix too, but they never threaten to swamp what Interpol do best: artfully cinematic, melodic rock with a real soul.
One gets the impression that there's a hint of irony behind the calling the album “Our Love to Admire” since most of the album's lyrics seem to dive down deep into the subconscious of dysfunctional love. Every song is shot through with Banks' unique lyrical style, like emotional snapshots that are almost Lynchian in their construction; flashes of absurdist imagery are met by wit and autobiography. Opener “Pioneer to Falls” is typical, brittle guitar notes forage their way through a building gothic rhythm, grand and apocalyptic, its haunting keys and repeated refrains are melodramatic, bringing to mind the work of Echo and the Bunnymen, watching a lover “Fly straight into my heart” before the inevitable “fall” is ushered in by cascading guitars that pull you down a well. It compares favourably with their debut's opener “Untitled” in the way it broodingly builds into something quite substantial.
Then there's the perversely alluring “There's no I in threesome”, an insistent song that's restrained piano notes constantly threaten to overbear the reverb rhythm, and Banks switches from dejection (“There are days in this life/When you see the teeth marks of time/Two Lovers divide”) to wryly asking a lover to “give something new a try.” Then there's the lead off single, the new wavy twang of kiss off “The Heinrich Maneuver” with Banks sneering “how are things on the West coast?”, the whole song careering along a delightfully pogoing rhythm of bass and drums as he rifles through the heart swing of his separation. “The Pace is the Trick” is a masterful exercise in subtle dynamics, dramatic and post apocalyptic, the minimal guitar line drips down the clicking rhythms and Banks' soft majestic delivery that alludes towards both the destructiveness of man, and the sleaziness of “women with no self control”, only to conclude that only fools rush in (I've seen love/And I followed the speed in the star light”). Note the dramatic pause near the end that aches, before the drums and bass come rushing back in. “All Fired Up” begins with a twitchy riff and some frankly bizarre imagery (“I dream of you draped in wires and leaning on the breaks”), its allusions to S+M and its scratchy rumble sound like the alternative soundtrack to David Cronenburg's Crash, as Banks shows he's willing to fight for love and spits out visceral refrains (“I'll take you on!”).
It's not all about love though. The stomping come down of “Rest My Chemistry” initially sounds clunky, the sheer ferocity of the weaving guitars and drums that thud into your solar plexus, the vocals place you in Banks' bed, as fair-weather “friends come and go,” but the gentle let up allows a moment of gentle consciousness “You look so young/Like a dazy in my lazy eye.”
But it's the two closers that perhaps show the way to Interpol's future, “Wrecking Ball” is sublime: call and return vocals shiver with romantic reverb, while the voice is now soft and tender, juxtaposing the slightly disturbing chorus (“I'm like a Wrecking Ball through your eyes”). It's the dawn of the morning orchestration that opens up near the end of the song that really shows off an expansive palette, and, if anything, ends too soon. While closer “Lighthouse” is heart stopping, the hypnotically stunning waves of guitar are painfully plucked out by Kessler's fifty year old guitar, and Banks' lonely light keeper vocals are stripped of all artifice. It's simple, haunting and sparse. It's a testament to the power of pure simple communication.
But as a whole, “Our Love to Admire” is a testament to subtlety, the poetic shrug of the shoulders. Sure, the pace and the power are still there, the existential rage is still in tact, that brooding menace still looms, but it's matched now by a growing maturity, a sense of evolution. An album that proves why Interpol are one of the best bands's to emerge from the postmillennial dirge.