07 October 2009

I Bought This on Amazon for less than a Pack of Cigarettes

This album enters with quite a bit of hype. Pitchfork called this record the best album of 2002, the third best album of the half-decade, and the 20th best of the decade. Even NME, a UK tastemaker magazine, named this the 10th best album of 02. It was also nominated for the 2003 Shortlist Prize, the American equivalent to the the UK's Mercury Prize. Which is all the more impressive, considering that at the time The Strokes were becoming hugely popular, and similarly named acts like The White Stripes, The Libertines, The Hives, and The Vines were all on their way up. And then, there's this. The band is called Interpol, and the album is called Turn On the Bright Lights. And while introductions are being made, two things should be made clear. First, this band doesn't really sound that much like any of the other bands that were just mentioned. At least, no more than The Walkmen do. Secondly, Interpol doesn't really sound that much like Joy Division, but that will be touched on later and in more depth. 
If Patrick Bateman, the main character in Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, were a real person living in the 2000s then chances are Interpol would be his favorite band, as opposed to the Talking Heads like in the book. Even on the surface this conceivable given the band's penchant for sharp haircuts and designer suits. While Bateman worked as an investment banker, Interpol seem to have ties to the PR sector with lines like, "Friends don't waste wine, when there's words to sell." But there's another level, where this comparison works as well.
In American Psycho, Bateman isn't always cool, calm, and collected. There are times where he is shook and losing his grip. As a reader, this is easy to identify because he, as the narrator, begins to report falsehoods. Or he will state things that directly contradict other things that he said earlier. The point being, Bateman had his hang-ups. He was ultimately, lonely and confused. He was never sure if he wanted sex or not, but he ran wild with it just to make sure. He was a fucked up individual, and as a result he rode off the rails. Interpol ride off the rails as well. They give off the appearance of what is supposed to be cool, but beneath things may not be as smooth as the black Italian suits suggest.  Like on "NYC", where the speaker confesses to miming his way through the daily routine but who is "sick of spending these lonely nights/Training myself not to care." Or on "Roland", where the speaker talks about his friend, the butcher, and how he has a beard which this writer can only imagine is some sort of grave offense in the NYC fashion circles. 
And then there's "Obstacle 1" which has the most Joy Division-y line on the whole album. "And you go stabbing yourself in the neck." Yeah, it's true. Lead singer, Paul Banks, does at times sound like someone who went to the Ian Curtis School for Vocalizing, at least in terms of delivery and only at times. "Obstacle 1" has a companion at least in name with the track, "Obstacle 2" where the speaker asks doesn't ask for self-inflicted injury, but rather for someone to help because "If you can fix me up, we'll go a long way." And to be fair, hope is never completely lost on this record. On "Untitled", we are told that we will be surprised sometimes. And there's "Sheila Was a Diver and She Was Always Down", which tells the tale of a lady who for lack of a better term, was always down to go down. 
Suppose, only one question remains. "Is this album as good as advertised?" The answer is probably. This is a consistent record that plays strongly from start to finish. Interpol have a certain sound, and they work well with it. In the past, Interpol was recommended to me. They said, I would probably like it. They were right, but truth be told the reason is still somewhat unclear. 

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