Interpol frontman Paul Banks makes his solo debut with a surprisingly worthwhile side project.
Ok, just so we’re all agreed-side projects are a load of old wank, aren’t they? Well, I think they are anyway! Mercifully though, there is a light at the end of the poop encrusted tunnel. After enduring god knows how many albums from the likes of celebrity nudist Tommy Lee, or that odd looking bass player from Korn, it looks like, finally, we’ve got a side project that’s worth buying. Not only that it may even eclipse the previous output from the Mothership – in this case, well, I’ll tell you in a minute. In the meantime, step forward Julian Plenti and his debut record Julian Plenti… Is Skyscraper.
If you’ve never heard of him, don’t fret, he’s not some tambourine player in an unheard of Scandinavian cock rock band: it’s actually the alternative moniker of Paul Banks, the singer from those tortured tunesmiths Interpol. According to legend, some of the songs on the record have been kicking around in acoustic form for well over a decade. You wouldn’t think it however, as now that they’re fleshed out and fully realised you’d be forgiven for concluding that they were always intended to be heard this way. There are 11 tracks on offer and while the songs still drip with the same paranoia that has made Mr Banks famous, they’re somewhat softer than the robotic suicide rock of Interpol.
The opening track ‘Only If You Run’ gives you a good guide to where Banks is going with things. Less Joy Division and more Pixies (particularly ‘Where Is My Mind?’), the song is a rousing way to start a record. Better yet is the second track ‘Fun That We Have’, which sees the singer get his rock on yet peppering the more pedestrian segments with strange bleeps and tech-y textures.
‘Skyscraper’ is the first proper tune that hints at its creator’s former incarnation, and gorgeous tinkling piano and weird loops help lift the acoustic based number out of mere self-indulgence. There are plenty (pardon the pun) of surprises on offer too. ‘Games For Days’ has a muted Gaslight Anthem-like guitar tone, thumping drums and a skeletal riff that’ll stick in your head for days, ‘Unwind’ is full of Imperial Teen-inspired moog-y woogie and album closer ‘H’ has a Bangra feel to it, which quite surprisingly works really well and doesn’t make us feel like bursting our own ear-drums at all.
There are a few disapppointments. The distorted female vocals on ‘Madrid Song’ let the tune down a bagful, and ‘No Chance Survival’ doesn’t really progress further than a nice finger-picked arpeggio. Still, Banks’ powerful baritone makes up for the shortcomings, providing the perfect vocal accompaniment to his melancholic threnodies. If you found yourself let down by Interpol’s somewhat underwhelming effort that was Our Love To Admire, then take solace in the fact that Julian Plenti… Skyscraper scales new heights for the musician. Maybe putting up with the likes of Fieldy’s Dreams was worth it after all.
KEY TRACK: ‘UNWIND’