Despite a fourth album that seemed to suggest a career drawing to an underwhelming close, Interpol are back with a new record, El Pintor. And, as Phil Smith writes, it proves there’s plenty of life left in the post punk pioneers yet.
Interpol – El Pintor
Interpol’s eponymous fourth album, released in 2010, felt like the end of something, the final chapter in the first wave of post punk revivalism. There were, on that record, flickers of their talent. The pulsating bass on ‘Barricade’, the gentle and hypnotic rasp of ‘Lights’. The spark was missing, though, and when Carlos D left the band just before its release, it was difficult to see a way back. Frontman Paul Banks admitted new music felt a long, long way off.
All of this is fresh in the memory when I reluctantly give their new attempt, El Pintor, a first listen. It is fair to say, then, I’m caught somewhat off guard when guitarist Daniel Kessler opens up on ‘All The Rage Back Home’ with an understated but beautiful salvo that manages, somehow, to capture the very essence of what makes Interpol, well, Interpol. Truth be told, as Banks broodily rumbles underneath, I find myself a little bit emotional. I suspect that anyone who sat, the first time they heard Turn on the Bright Lights with that growing sense of irrepressible awe, will feel the same.
Does this opener, a stunning addition to the Interpol song canon, mislead us a little to think Interpol are back to their very best? Yes and no. El Pintor is an album neither as mesmerically atmospheric as Turn on the Bright Lights nor as catchy and memorable as Antics, but it is a tremendous effort for a band approaching their twentieth year as a group.
‘My Desire’ would have slotted in nicely on Antics, while ‘Anywhere’ sees the New Yorkers return to the Peter Hook inspired bass template that underpinned their seminal debut album. Paul Banks taking over the bass reins is a masterstroke, allowing the genius of Daniel Kessler to strut and leave his indelible mark all over the record.
If there is one criticism, it is that it feels, on the whole, a little one paced. One of the album’s strongest tracks, ‘My Blue Supreme’, breaks the rhythm of rock numbers nicely, with Banks adopting a falsetto for the first time. That there is nothing particularly similar elsewhere feels like an opportunity missed.
Tracks like ‘Same Town, New Story’ and ‘Tidal Wave’ show the group have not abandoned their experimental tendencies that began to appear on their last effort. El Pintor, however, is much more focused. So not ‘back to basics,’ but a recapturing of form.
Above all else, this album is a reminder that though Interpol are from being the best band of the Post Punk Revival scene, they are unquestionably the most iconic. That has to be worth forty minutes of our time, surely?