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Boys of bummer get a little too downbeat for their own good
Colm O Hare, 06 Sep 2010
Recorded in the months leading up to peacock bassist Carlos Dengler’s departure, Interpol’s fourth LP probably qualifies as a ‘break-up’ album of sorts. Certainly it captures the New York goth-rockers in an (even by their standards) downbeat frame of mind. Several Interpol trademarks – the Joy Division basslines, the furious hooks – are almost completely absent. Instead the band ratchet up the other cornerstone of their sound – that oppressive, doomy ambience – to near claustrophobic levels.
Sometimes – too often in fact – this pushes the album from the realm of the stoic to the downright dreary (leaden dirges-by-numbers such as ‘Memory Serves’ and ‘Barricade’ may well be the dullest songs Interpol have yet authored). Nonetheless, the music’s drastic closing in on itself does occasionally yield moments to cherish. Starting with a burst of cinematic guitar from Daniel Kessler, opener ‘Success’ is just fantastic, its air of spectral menace obscuring the fact that, as with almost everything on the LP, it lacks a chorus.
Meanwhile, the OK Computer-esque ‘Summer Well’ features frosty ‘80s synths and a snarl-in-the-dark refrain from Banks. He’s always sounded unhappy – here he seems positively forlorn. However, if the record has a centre-piece comparable to ‘The Heinrich Manoeuvre’ or ‘Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down’ it’s ‘Always Malaise (The Man I Am)’, a wide-screen chugger that confirms Interpol are at their best when at their most absurdly bombastic.
By 2007’s Our Love To Admire, Interpol were accused of starting to repeat themselves. Evidently they have taken the criticism on board: the follow up is the work of a group in transition, scrabbling, often with little palpable success, for new things to say. Perhaps the addition of ex-Slint man Dave Pajo on bass and Secret Machine’s Brandon Curtis on keyboards will imbue them with a fresh lease of life. As of now, Interpol are in danger of sinking into the murk that was always a distinct element of their persona but now appears in danger of overwhelming them entirely.