Interpol:: Our Love to Admire (Album Review)
Interpol always stood slightly apart. With their cadaverous good looks and three-piece suits – think a firm of undertakers with a PhD in goth – the New York band dressed differently from the Iggy-worshipping children of the New Rock Revolution. And at a time when all and sundry were extolling the virtues of garage band primitivism, the austere post-punk of their 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights proved a perfect tonic. A mission statement capable of going toe-to-toe with any of the great albums of recent years, this was the perfect introduction to their cryptic tales of sex and loneliness in the city.
The four-piece followed it in 2004 with Antics, a more stridently upbeat album than its predecessor which drew on elements of pop, soul and disco to successfully expand on their template, where their NYC contemporaries the Strokes could only offer more of the same.
Newly signed to Parlophone, their third album arrives belatedly on the back of persistent rumours of a split and a reportedly ‘tempestuous genesis’. In the interim, drummer Sam Fogarino started a new band, the Setting Suns, with Adam Franklin of Nineties shoegazing outfit Swervedriver, while newly mustachioed bassist Carlos D was recently seen on a Guardian website blog rhapsodising about the ‘gorgeous and irresistible power’ of symphony orchestras. All of which could have made for a distracted-sounding major label debut from a band verging on the kind of superstardom you feel should have been theirs years ago.
Happily, that ‘tempestuous genesis’ sounds like a storm in a teacup – Our Love to Admire fleshes out the dark edges of Interpol’s sound to create a polished, muscular-sounding record that teems with life and bristling potency. That might come as a disappointment to those who enjoyed the brittle existentialism of the first record, but it makes for an electrifying listen in its own right.
‘Pioneer to the Falls’ raises the curtain in high style, a skeletal guitar figure and knife-edged rhythm section building to a dizzying crescendo of tremulous guitar and herculean blasts of trumpet.
Daniel Kessler’s guitar really shines on first single ‘Heinrich Maneuver’, an insolent riff buzzing excitedly around Banks’s gloating kiss-off to an ex-girlfriend, the band coming to a heart-stopping pause before segueing dramatically into a final chorus. The song is typical in its prickly sentiments – if Antics dared to dream of romantic love and escape, Our Love To Admire is a cocksure declaration of self-sufficiency.
Those who find Paul Banks’s penchant for innuendo an unwelcome distraction might want to keep a sick bucket handy for ‘No I in Threesome’, although he gets props for his guileless attempts to ascribe a poetic dimension to the grubby mechanics of a menage a trois: ‘You feel the sweet breath of time, it’s whispering its truth, not mine/ There’s no I in threesome.’
‘Rest My Chemistry’ revisits their sometime Pixies fascination with a coked-out, world-weary lyric: ‘Haven’t slept in two days/ I’ve bathed in nothing but sweat/ And I’ve made hallways scenes for things to regret.’ Just when you’re wondering if they have any heart at all, the narcissistic sweep of the first nine tracks subsides with ‘Wrecking Ball”s keening lament, Banks sounding choked with regret as he consoles another put-upon ex: ‘Nobody told you I could walk through and shake up your style.’ Then they bow out gracefully with the redeeming guitar wash of ‘The Lighthouse’.
Terrible, brooding and magnificent, Our Love to Admire sees NYC’s most nocturnal sons sitting pretty at the top of the food chain, looking every inch the predatory creatures that adorn the album’s sleeve.
(Alex Denney- UK)