When compared to the avalanche of indie rock bands that sprung from the New York concrete in the early 2000s, Interpol are something of an exception. With the principle founders meeting in a history class on the First World War at NYU, ‘rock n’ roll’ is hardly a phrase that springs to mind. However, unlike their New York brethren from that era of rock and revitalisation, Interpol are still active and cranking out records over 15 years after the release of their 2002 seminal debut Turn on the Bright Lights; an instant classic album cloaked in a brooding, post 9/11 atmosphere.
And now, four years after their miraculous reboot, Interpol serve up a second helping of gloomy lyrics and jaunty riffs in Marauder.
Marauder begins boldly, with the crashing chords and stomping drums of ‘If You Really Love Nothing’. This marks a real departure from Interpol’s usual style right down to its accompanying music video, which unexpectedly stars Kristen Stewart. The touch of new producer Dave Fridmann, who insisted on recording the album straight onto magnetic tape, can be heard almost immediately. Seamlessly swimming in its wake comes the slick and energetic lead single ‘The Rover’. This opens with one of guitarist Daniel Kessler’s trademarked serrated riffs, before leaping into a Blitzkrieg of guitars, rumbling bass and Sam Fogarino’s pulsating drums.
Ensuing songs ‘Complications’, ‘Stay in Touch’ and ‘Flight of Fancy’ tread along familiar territory for Interpol, of roaring guitars, emotionally distant lyrics and Fogarino’s innovative drum beats. Interpol also furnish Marauder with a pair of swirling, murky keyboard interludes, dividing the album from the relatively up-beat first half and the increasingly desperate and self-conscious latter.
Towards the album’s conclusion, ‘Party’s Over’ shines as a standout track, seeing the band finally adjust to the loss of their integral bassist, Carlos D. Paul Banks once again shoulders the bass duties, however, unlike the previous album, 2014’s El Pintor, it doesn’t feel like he’s just filling in a hole in the band. The bass and drums interplay in ways unseen since the days of Antics in 2004, and Banks stretches his vocal range in ways that hark back to the best tracks off their 2010 self-titled album.
Banks stretches his vocal range in ways that hark back to the best tracks off their 2010 self-titled album
Thematically, Paul Banks’ lyrics bounce between a dazzling array of stories, from cult leaders in ‘The Rover’, to workplace romances in ‘Number 10’, all whilst veiling them all with Banks’ traditionally cryptic lyrics. Lyrics like ‘NYSMAW’’s “They will design a little box for you to play in/ Aimless sharks don’t react to soft attentions” will surely stump ‘Genius’ contributors for aeons. Unfortunately Fridmann’s production choices often make being able to hear Banks’ lyrics at all a similar exercise in futility.
Marauder’s tenth song, creatively titled ‘Number 10’, is another gleaming jewel in Interpol’s tiara. This song was originally intended to be a B-side, but the band loved its energy, recorded it live and shuffled it into the album’s final cut. It erupts with a gloriously meaty riff that recalls the heavy guitarwork of 2007’s Our Love To Admire and the outro of ‘Not Even Jail’ from Antics, bringing fond memories of the band’s former glory, but also something far less satisfying. A kind of hollow familiarity that runs through the album like a stick of Brighton rock.
The root of this feeling lies in how since El Pintor Interpol have seemingly attempted to recycle the same themes and riffs from their first two albums into their music, appealing to nostalgia but little else. There are no more ‘PDA’s, only pale soundalikes like ‘NYSMAW’. Even less traditional Interpol songs like ‘Mountain Child’ sound more like discarded tracks from Paul Banks’ first solo album as Julian Pelenti.
There are no more ‘PDA’s only pale soundalikes like ‘NYSMAW’
Having said this, one must be rational. In an interview before the loss of Carlos D, Banks claimed that if the band lost a member, it wouldn’t be ‘Interpol’ anymore. As Sam Fogarino said in 2014, El Pintor was a reinvention; more a second debut album than Interpol’s fifth. In this sense, the Interpol of post-2014 shouldn’t be compared to the peak Interpol of the early 2000s, in much the same way the Byzantine Empire shouldn’t be compared to Ancient Rome at its peak. Sure, there are similarities and repetitions, but that’s hardly a surprise for a band that’s been playing music since 1997. The two phases should be appreciated separately.
the Interpol of post-2014 shouldn’t be compared to the peak Interpol of the early 2000s
Once the glaring comparisons have been exhausted, all that can be said is that Interpol have released an unsurprising but nonetheless thrilling album. They may still be rocking out in Dolce & Gabbana suits 15 years on, but they are still the undisputed masters of slick, shadowy metropolitan rock.