11 September 2014

Interpol - El Pintor


The Painter - this is the translation of the title of this record.  For some bands that would be a brave title, for Interpol, it is a statement of intent (it should also be noted that El Pintor is also an anagram of Interpol).  Interpol hail from New York City, North America and were formed in 1997 in a scene which gave light to such modern giants as The National, Stellastarr and The Strokes (ok, maybe not the later one - but that is a personal opinion).  Since their first album, there has been a bit of an enigma about this band for me.  Along with The National, they are the most interesting thing to come from NYC in a long while.  Their mixture of post punk & art house rock has always been the right side of dark and even when songs were used on massive TV programs and commercials, they have never seemed to be anything but an intimate band.  This is their fifth release and their first record becoming a three piece after bass player Carlos Dengler left.  On a side note, before this album was released Interpol started their tour come back in a venue called 'Think Tank! @ Riverside' and according to many people it was a class gig (advertisement done Steve! ;-) ). So how does this record compare to the rest of their back catalogue?

Starting with "All The Rage Back Home", you have that guitar tone that makes this instantly familiar with every Interpol fan.  You also have that sense that the band seem to be enjoying the release of their new misery, for this (like all other Interpol songs) is as happy as a damp bank holiday weekend at the seaside.  But misery rarely sounds as good or exciting as this, for this is an instant classic from the band from the start.  Feeling like the natural successor to both "Slow Hands" and "The Heinrich Maneuver" I am trying to think of a number that has been opened an album with such flair in a long while, also it might not surprised you that this was the first single (and only one to date as of when this blog is published) to be released from 'El Pintor'. "My Desire" is another back to basic song, very much in tone with their first album 'Turn On The Bright Lights", it is also a very basic song.  There is an empty feel about the song, but the bass heavy pulse of the main verses hits a brilliant groove that keeps the song on the right course.  It does not quite make the same heights as "All The Rage....", but it is still a very good song.  The looking backwards feel of the album continues on "Anywhere", but don't take looking backwards to mean regression; the band seem to be in a reflective mood.  On this song the lyrics seem to be directed seem to be aimed squarely at Mr Dengler, especially when they say 'be kind to the base, someday you might need them'.  I know the spelling is different, but this is one of many moments on this song that seem to be saying goodbye.  The song is another piece of classic Interpol track and is as strong as anything they have ever released before.

"Same Town, New Story" is the fourth track on the album, starting with a climbing riff before entering into a slowly constructed movement of gothic indie disco that will have some fans relaxing and some fans doing a slow dance.  For me, whilst it sounds brilliant, I just cannot bring myself to like it.  It is not bad, but it is not pushing all the right buttons and doesn't seem to develop beyond that initial riff and opening which is a little sad as it is a fantastic little riff at the beginning.  "My Blue Supreme" is another slow number, sounding like the music from a nightclub for jilted lovers and the heartbreakers it feels like it is ready to break some more along the way to the next joint.  Whilst "Same Town, New Story" was another slow number, "My Blue Supreme" at least goes somewhere and feeling much more complete than the previous number.  Bringing the energy back to the album is "Everything Is Wrong", but with that unhappy and miserable style that is the motif of Interpol.  On this song, the clash of vocal style over the happy music brings to mind what The Smiths might have sounded like if Johnny Marr was also a little more moody at times.  It is a plate of dark musings that will bring a smile to the face of most people; this is the most positive thing I can say about this number.

"Breaker 1" is a monster trying to disguise itself as a slow number, but after a few too many slower number it seems the band are wanting to break out of that pattern and the sound of the band brings the pitch perfect between the quieter moments and loud, pulsing bridges into beautiful focus.  The song is one of the peaks of the album and keeps the momentum going.  "Ancient Ways" is the eighth song on the album, it is another one of the more energetic number by Interpol and to be honest there is nothing wrong with it.  But in the same breath, there is nothing right here either; for some reason it just does not quite gel together for me and even after repeat listens; it is yet to reveal any reason secrets.  With that said, it might be the song on the album I like least; it still fairs better than some other band's output I have recently heard.  "Tidal Wave" is the penultimate song of the album, to be honest it is not an all power and submerging track as the title might suggest; what the track does is much more subtle that than.  The build of the song is incredible slow and the patient addition of each part of the song whether it is the gentle keys at the beginning (supplied by Brandon Curtis from The Secret Machines), the pounding drums or the bass and guitars slowly becoming more focused as the track progresses. A sublime and understate piece of music, which is followed by the closing track - "Twice As Hard".  This emotional ending to the album brings the curtain down with a flair for the dramatic; the band guide the album to a steady close and keep the reflective nature of the album at the front and centre.

This album is the best album since their jaw dropping debut; it is more complete than anything they have released since that marvel of that jewel of 2001.  The reflective feel of the album does not feel like a step backwards, it is not a self-serving tribute to themselves.  It feels like they are ready to progress to something else after this album as if they were about to say goodbye to their former selves.  The middle section of the album does lull that little bit too much for my tastes, but it does not harm the overall impression of this entertaining album.  Rarely has misery sounded so majestic, this is another high water mark for the band.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top Track - All The Rage Back Home

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Interpol website here - not to be confused with the international Police service

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

You can listen to the album on Deezer here

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