Interpol's emergence in 2002 with debut album Turn On the Bright Lights seemed to coincide with, or open the door for, a slew of bands influenced by the Post Punk scene of the early eighties. Bands like Bloc Party, Editors, White Lies and The Rakes drew inspiration from the gloomy guitar heavy music of Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen with varying degrees of originality and success but it was Interpol who always seemed to be ahead of the pack.
Their debut album stands as one of the finest guitar records of the noughties, while follow up Antics, released in 2004, was a worthy successor and exposed the band's music to a much wider audience. Two further albums consolidated that success, but it was hard to escape the feeling that a certain malaise had crept in by the time they got to album number four. This seemed to be confirmed when founding member and bassist Carlos Dengler left just after its completion. The announcement of a hiatus in 2011 raised questions as to whether we might have seen the last of the band, as the various members went their separate ways to pursue different projects.
Now they are back with a fifth album, El Pintor, due for release on 9th September and the good news is that it might just be their finest record since Antics. The swagger and sense of purpose is back - everything from the stark red and black cover art to the greater sense of urgency in the music suggests a re-energised Interpol intent on recapturing the spirit of that fine 2002 debut.
A few minor tweaks have worked wonders for the band - the songs are faster, leaner and rawer, with no song clocking in over five minutes. Here we take a track-by- track look at an album that should dispel any lingering doubts that their best days are behind them.
Words by Paul Page
1. All The Rage Back Home: The first teaser song for the album and destined to become an Interpol fan favourite. A sparse guitar and vocal introduction prefaces a track that explodes into life with propulsive bass and drums and criss-crossing tremolo guitars. Killer opener.
2. My Desire: Momentum maintained with Paul Banks singing 'Be my desire...I'm a frustrated man...' over a wall of trademark Interpol guitars. The intensity is full on - Interpol make no attempts to re-invent the wheel, concentrating on what they have always done best. Fantastic guitar work on the extended closing section.
3. Anywhere: There's a familiarity to these songs - Interpol are recycling, reusing what they have done before with minimal waste and zero flab. In the process, they are reclaiming this sound from a host of pretenders. Solid track.
4. Same Town, New Story: Most interesting song on the album - more restrained with some nice vocal harmonies and an insistent guitar riff underpinning the whole thing. Interpol have done some interesting remixes of their tracks in the past - this one is crying out for similar treatment.
5. My Blue Supreme: Stabbing guitars, falsetto vocal on the verse before we switch back to a typically memorable Interpol chorus. Cruising In My Blue Supreme. Indeed.
6. Everything Is Wrong: Paul Banks took over bass playing duties when Dengler departed - it's his distorted, growling bass that introduces the first of three very strong songs in the second half of the album. That tension and release that has always been a big part of their music is very evident here. Great track.
7. Breaker 1: Menacing. The swagger that was missing from the last album is here in spades. Interpol always at their very best when Banks' vocals reach a peak of intensity just as the guitars sound like they are about to explode.
8. Ancient Ways: Juggernaut of a track. Banks sings 'Fuck the ancient ways..' as a storm of guitars and rolling drums remind us they are well and truly back to their best. One of the outstanding songs on the album.
9. Tidal Wave: The weakest link. Interpol by numbers with a strangely off kilter chorus that sounds like the track was pitched down, or was played in a weird key. Doesn't work so well on an album that has been strong up to this point.
10. Twice As Hard: Closer in spirit to the sound on their most recent albums. High tremolo guitars, and a slower pace make this a little more textured and atmospheric than some of the earlier songs. Satisfying closing track that probably wouldn't have worked anywhere else on the record.
First listen: Full Album Stream (courtesy of NPR Music)