Interpol, released September 7, 2010 on Matador records, the eponymously titled fourth record from the New York City based rock band will probably best be remembered as the last album that bassist Carlos Dengler worked on.
Dengler, often identified as the fashion conscious, physical embodiment of the music that Interpol produces, left in the spring of this year after participating in both the writing and recording of the new album. Although his departure was not a surprise to members of the band, his trademark bass sounds – as much as his look – will be missed. If Interpol were a brand, Dengler would be their advertisement.
The self-produced Interpol finds the group of musicians in a much more relaxed and perhaps hazy mindset than previous album, Our Love to Admire, which was filled with stadium-sized, galloping rock tunes. That difference was the influence of producer, Rich Costey, who has also produced albums from Brit sci-fi rockers, Muse. Interpol, in the hands of singer Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler, drummer Sam Fogarino and Dengler, is much more introspective with overlaying sounds that ebb and tide as if under the gravitational pull of the moon. Indeed, the album is probably at its strongest when heard at two or three in the morning, after a late night of exhausting debauchery and casual fornication – all elements of the Interpol soundscape brand. It’s an interesting, however somewhat middling, album to listen to.
There isn’t much new to the Interpol sound here. It’s as familiar as we’ve heard on previous albums, which is reassuring, however one can’t help but to think that this may be all that Interpol the band has to offer – as if they have reached their musical apex on this record. That isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The sounds are interesting, sexy, artful and punchy. Still, the last four tracks on the ten track album all meander, as if searching for some place to go, each one sounding like it should be the bookend piece on the record, each one justified in being so. One just wonders if the band can surprise listeners with hooks and riffs and vocal melodies again as they did on each of their previous three releases. Perhaps that is why Dengler decided to move on. Perhaps he felt Interpol had run its course.
When the band do push the envelope on this album, we get an inspired song like “Lights” a musical piece that slowly, methodically, grows from a single, strumming dirty guitar sound to a trembling, atmospheric climax of bass and drum that finds vocalist Banks incessantly howling “that’s why I hold you” again and again. It’s an absolutely brilliant and shimmering moment, the highlight of an otherwise sombre recording. “Lights” was released as a free download in the spring, accompanied by a darkly stylish and fascinating video whose images evoke Depeche Mode as much as they do the works of Stanley Kubrick and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Still, its look is always an inspired Interpol aesthetic to the eye.
Lead single “Barricade” is the strongest Interpol-sounding song on the album: plucky guitars coupled alongside staccato base grooves. Dengler certainly knows his strengths and he allows his playful sounds to stop in order to rest and breathe along with listeners – before pounding his rich resonance into the ears and body again. Because of him, this is a song that can be felt as much as heard. Going forward, his bass thrusts will be missed.
Interpol is a decent sounding work from a band that is at a crossroads. Because of the departure of their long-standing and iconic bassist, the remaining members of the group, Banks, Kessler and Fogarino must decide to either continue onwards and push the envelope of their art, a very New York, dirty-yet-sexy sounding compositional philosophy, or decide to call it a day. Either there is more music to be heard in the late night, after club atmosphere, or it’s time for a restful sleep and the inevitable wait for a new sunrise.
With the release late last year of a Paul Banks solo effort, one wonders if the answer isn’t the latter.