Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Music Review by Alison Ross

Interpol Turn off the Bright Lights of Inspiration
by Alison Ross

Interpol should know better. The quintet from NYC released arguably one of the best debut albums in recent popular music history, Turn on the Bright Lights. That album, songs caressed by Paul Bank’s seductive basso vocals, and generously swathed in blankets of gorgeously glacial guitars, was a modern rock milestone. It reveled in 80s nostalgia while simultaneously heralding a new age in rock, one that was guitar-centric rather than heavily synthesized, and yet that did not eschew synthesizers altogether. Turn on the Bright Lights inhabited the best of both worlds – it paid homage to a glittering era in pop music but did not allow itself to be mired in overt references to that era, crafting instead its own luscious lexicon.

So yes, Interpol, having made such a stunning inaugural dent in modern music, and subsequently releasing a solid sophomore effort that propelled the band forward from that point, should really know better than to release an album filled with mediocre rehashes of the two previous albums. But that’s just what “Our Love to Admire” is: a tepid retread of its earlier releases.

Interpol is a high-caliber music machine, capable of churning out darkly fascinating, atmospheric art-punk hymns, and yet on its third effort, the band makes the near-fatal choice to cater to the masses, and in the process undermines its credibility with its hardcore fanbase.

Granted, Interpol just signed to a major label, and this could be the main culprit in its crime of releasing a lackluster album, one that strives to endear the band to a larger audience. But in my mind, this does not pardon the band from such a violation of artistic integrity. On Antics, the group’s second album, the band’s signature sound remained intact, and yet the songs sounded fresh, because Interpol experimented within its realm of sonic possibilities. In other words, Antics creatively mined the band's repertoire, and discovered a new way to narrate the Interpol story.

True, Antics lacked the mercurial ethereality of Turn on the Bright Lights, but it made up for this loss by pounding out tunes with a punk-disco sensibility (Slow Hands), an aching melodic core (Take a Cruise), or an imminently singable chorus (Evil). Where Turn on the Bright Lights felt claustrophobic, Antics was more extoverted. Not all tunes on Antics merit mention, and it is less cohesively brilliant than its predecessor, but the album nonetheless justifies its purchase price.

Had Our Love to Admire been the first Interpol album I heard, I might be less ruthless in my criticism. The songs are solid, to be sure, and memorable in their way. The album opener, with its haunting hook, sustains listener interest throughout, and most songs are competently crafted.

But in the end, the album does not make an indelible impression; it sounds lazily assembled, and bleakly uninspired.

Our Love to Admire is not an album to love or admire, and one can only hope that the next Interpol effort delivers the goods so promiscuously promised by the first two albums.

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