Interpol’s fourth album sees them in a potentially difficult position, with their increasing popularity earning them a prestigious support slot with U2. This is a great opportunity but also one which risks the group compromising the studied cool with which their music is associated. Rather like a modern U2 album though, their self-titled next step is immaculately produced and immediately recognisable as the work of the band who made it.
‘Success’ begins in typically portentous fashion but it takes almost two minutes before it breaks from its polished veneer to the urgent pay-off. At least frontman Paul Banks sounds reassuringly frantic by the song’s conclusion. Indeed, Banks is once again the distinctive presence in the band; his vocal performance continually on the verge of a nervous breakdown but always restraining himself when others might have broken in to a falsetto. However, guitarist Daniel Kessler often seems to be going through the motions; driving and supporting the front man but actually varying little in his approach.
Admittedly, he and his bandmates are in fine form for ‘Memory Serves’, which feeds off a typically jagged guitar line but by the time of fifth track ‘Barricade’, the formula shows signs of wearing thin. From here to the end, there’s a distinct lack of imagination and even though’All Of The Ways’ features a rare sonic experiment, (and welcome for it since this is not an album that reveals any radical re-invention) it lumbers towards its conclusion with nothing resembling a hook.
Great moments tend to be the exception to the rule and it’s hard to remember particular tracks from the record even after hearing the whole album several times. However, ‘Summer Well’ epitomises what the group normally do so well, by locating the point where euphoria and depression meet, whilst the piano-led ‘Always Malaise’ sees them break from the mid-paced to the sloth-paced and it turns out to be the most affecting song on offer.
Interpol may be a stylish, slow-burning institution, reliably bringing darkness to the masses but they have clearly lost the power to thrill or to suprise. ‘Interpol’ is still a consistent, seamless album, which shows the band consolidating their position as the lead merchants of gloom. Just don’t expect much in the way of originality.
The Departure, The Arrest, Black Poets, Editors, White Lies