By Kimberly Ilkowski
Interpol is one of the bands that cemented my love for alternative rock some seven years ago. However, up until this June when its new album was announced, the band had virtually disappeared. After a four-year gap between albums and the departure of long-time bassist Carlos Dengler, Interpol is finally back and ready to show that it’s only gotten better with age.
The band’s fifth studio album, “El Pintor,” released on Tuesday, Sept. 9 through Matador Records, has quickly become one of the year’s most anticipated albums and one that easily ranks among the best albums in the band’s discography.
It’s been twelve years since Interpol’s debut album “Turn On The Bright Lights” skyrocketed the band to fame within the New York City indie-rock scene of the early 2000s alongside acts like The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The N.Y.C. natives — composed of vocalist Paul Banks, guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino — are known for their dapper appearance and dark demeanor.
The first song off the album and its first single, “All The Rage Back Home,” showcases Interpol’s signature style that any die-hard fan can identify with and enjoy. The track starts off with Banks’s eerie whisper drowned out by a wall of guitars, until, suddenly, the song’s fever breaks and the band lurches full speed ahead into the pre-chorus.
The next track, “My Desire,” reels you in immediately with a guitar riff that’s like an addictive up-and-down rollercoaster of sound.
It seems as though Banks is endlessly yearning, using a lyrical lexicon full of longing, lust and lovers.
The song “Same Town, New Story” also delivers another amazing guitar riff, further showcasing Kessler’s true talent and creativity. The song also illustrates that Interpol is more open to experimenting with new sounds, as this is funkier than anything I’ve heard from them previously.
The repeated lyric, “feels like the whole world is coming down on me,” highlights the melancholia that has always been a common denominator in Interpol’s songwriting.
In the past, Interpol’s albums, especially the 2010 self-titled release, felt like a large theater production with dense feelings and dramatic intros and outros, each spanning several minutes long. With “El Pintor,” these elements are replaced with faster riffs, clearer vocals and a dash of funk similar to the music of its heyday. But no matter which album you’re listening to, the songs always maintain a sense of grandeur.
These songs are shorter and less epic, but not in a bad way. They take a lot of tips from the band’s earlier records that were simultaneously more popular and radio-friendly.
In “Breaker 1,” Banks’s echoing voice creates a haunting effect alongside pounding instrumentals as he moans about “aching” and the “beast inside.”
If this sounds pretentious, it’s not. The band has never tried to be anyone but itself. Its work continues to be heavily influenced by Joy Division but never mimics it.
Banks lets his tortured soul run free on this album with lyrics that seem capable of weighing you down. However, the way the songs are structured will instead have you bopping around and tapping your feet.
The second single off the album, “Ancient Ways,” is a fast, loud burst of energy that dies out just as abruptly as it begins.
On “Tidal Waves,” instead of a zany guitar riff to lead in, Fogarino’s drum kit beckons us with booming pedal stomps and crashing cymbals. The song is topped off with a chanting chorus of the track’s title.
The final song, “Twice As Hard,” reimagines old sounds, specifically borrowing from the outro of the band’s 2010 single, “Barricade.”
If Interpol’s sold-out November show at Philly’s Union Transfer is any indicator of the success the band will have with “El Pintor,” then I can only dream of the magic Banks and company will produce in the future.