It’s been just under a year since Interpol, the gloomy kings of indie rock, released their last album, Marauder – a solid, if uninteresting rejoinder to 2014’s El Pintor. A Fine Mess sees Interpol return to their still warm studio chairs with Marauder’s producer, David Friedman for their first EP since 2003’s The Black EP. At times A Fine Mess is an enjoyable listen, however, throughout its 17-minute playtime, it’s difficult not to question why Interpol rushed to release an EP when it appears as if they have nothing new to say.
the band sound far more comfortable with each other as a trio
On first listen, the standout opening track, ‘Fine Mess’ sounds like Interpol trying to rekindle the past intensity of their discography. Singer Paul Banks’ lyrics sound as if they were passionately yelled into an intercom, Sam Fogarino’s drums are characteristically explosive yet disciplined, and Daniel Kessler’s surgically precise guitar hooks keep the song on its raucous course. This song wouldn’t sound out of place on the 2010 extended cut of their debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, and as with moments on Marauder, the band sound far more comfortable with each other as a trio, even going so far as to toss a Carlos Dengler-esque bass riff into the chorus.
Other highlights on the EP include the single ‘The Weekend’ – a strong composition where Kessler and Banks’ guitars seem to chime out their mournful cries to each other from one headphone to the other, producing a uniquely Interpol sense of melancholy. Banks’ lyrics are also interesting, not bewildering, with “Days roll by, non-discreet / The ebb and flow just reflects the infinite symmetry” being a particularly evocative line, especially, I imagine, striking a chord with students trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of revision.
a uniquely Interpol sense of melancholy
Unfortunately, the rest of the EP isn’t quite so engaging. ‘No Big Deal’ sees the band trudge through nearly four minutes of blandness, broken up by a repetitive chorus of “From the beach to the strip-club, I bet / Feeling reach, feeling built up, I bet, I bet”, on a strikingly similar plain of mundanity to Marauder’s ‘It Probably Matters’. The toe-tapping ‘Real Life’, on the other hand, shows signs of promise, with Kessler inaugurating the song with a riff that dances atop Fogarino’s pulsating bass-drum. Unfortunately, this quickly descends into an unnecessarily long song that fails to deliver what its opening notes seem to promise.
What’s more, Banks’ lyrics are at times almost impossible to decipher. This is due in part to the echoey quality to the EP, which seems an odd production choice for a band whose versatility lies in how you can get a different feel for each of their songs by listening out for and appreciating the intricacies of each element – the bass, guitars, drums and Banks’ cryptic and intriguing lyrics. Instead, the ingredients for some of the EP’s songs all converge into what can only be described as ‘noise’, with A Fine Mess’ closing song ‘Thrones’ being the worst offender.
Whilst their music since 2010 has been studded with moments of brilliance, it’s also fair to say it has lost its novelty
On Bright Lights (2002), Interpol were breathless, urgent. On Antics (2004), their songs were lyrically articulate, instrumentally tight and interspersed with icy and intricate hooks from guitarist Daniel Kessler. Even 2007’s Our Love to Admire was garnished with some of Interpol’s meatiest riffs and most blood-pumping songs. Whilst their music since 2010 has been studded with moments of brilliance, it’s also fair to say it has lost its novelty, with Interpol revisiting the same themes album after album. A Fine Mess is by no means a terrible EP, but it feels superfluous, particularly considering how soon it was released after their last effort.