September 5, 2002

Test Spin: Interpol

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Interpol may get comparisons to Joy Division and other ’80s new wavers, but faulting this NYC four-piece for their influences seems to be beside the point. Of course they’re derivative — but do they sound good?

Sure they do. The 11 tracks on Turn On the Bright Lights are gorgeous examples of multilayered guitar rock, heavy on atmospherics and tension. The band’s best song is still “NYC,” a leftover from their buzz-generating early-summer EP. With a slow, pulsing build of melodic guitars and the soaring vocals, it’s hard not to be moved by this.

The rest of the album sets about modestly proving that the band didn’t exhaust all their potential with their self-titled EP. “Say Hello To the Angels” is the Strokes-ian rocker of the bunch, outdoing those other NYC boys at their own game with jittery guitar hooks and a steady beat. The albums most outstanding moments, though, tap into deep melancholy and a slow, warm flow of sounds.

“The New” is awash in lovely harmonics and deadpan vocals that combine to create a sad but strangely triumphant mood. The whole album is like this — it all basically sounds the same, but standouts like the detached anger of “Obstacle 2” (“friends don’t waste wine/ when there’s worse to sell”) and the gloomy opener “Untitled” (“her stories are boring and stuff/ she’s always calling my bluff”) contain enough dry witticisms and beautiful musicianship to elevate the entire record. After a few listens, the individual songs start to seem less important, and the overall mood just absorbs you.

Archived article by Ed Howard