I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering whether or not it would last. Interpol’s debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, was subject to almost endless critical acclaim in 2002, pushing the band up to indie rock stardom early in their career. It was one of my favorite discs that year, so much so that it prompted me to purchase a vinyl version for home listening, while my burned copy stayed in my car stereo. But after endless touring, SPIN magazine tour diaries crammed with “debauchery” (mostly being drunk) and a near absence of any new material emerging, despite the release of four different singles, it looked as if Interpol were ready to burn out early.
With that in mind, I approached Antics, the band’s sophomore album, with caution. There was high potential for sophomore slump and, disappointing as it would have been, it wouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. So imagine my shock when I heard a stunning collection of music that sounded as fresh and alive as the ruckus these four young New Yorkers made two years ago on Bright Lights. The Joy Division comparisons seemed to have subsided, though the band hasn’t drifted far away from their trademark sound. The most Joy Division-esque aspect of the band was Paul Banks’ voice, which still sounds as dark and morose as the infamous Mancunian. But Antics is no Closer Part Two.
The shoegazer guitars and dramatic breaks still have a full-time position in Interpol’s songs, though major keys and even a bit of danceability has found its way on to Antics. Imagine Franz Ferdinand as bummed out Americans and you’re not too far off the mark. First single “Slow Hands” even sounds a bit like “Darts of Pleasure” swathed in melancholy. Though Interpol were never strangers to catchy choruses, “Slow Hands” seems more at home on the dance floor than any of the band’s previous work and gives insight, subtle as it may be, into the direction that the band may be going.
There are plenty of drone-heavy songs, like opener “Next Exit” and “Not Even Jail,” though even these differ in many ways than, say, “NYC.” “Next Exit,” for one, sounds almost hopeful and positive as Banks sings “We’re gonna trek this shit around” over an atypically major key melody. “Not Even Jail” features a pounding drum beat that would fit in comfortably alongside Coldplay’s “Clocks,” Doves’ “Pounding” or Snow Patrol’s “Chocolate.” The guitars chime and hum as usual, though in the context of the epic structure and the steady beat, they manage to sound more powerful and majestic.
The best moments on the record come in the most straightforward, single worthy songs. As mentioned earlier, “Slow Hands” is an instant classic, as is “Evil,” which offers more singalong goodness and upbeat melodies. Any remnants of Joy Division that may have remained are demolished on “Evil” and replaced with some decidedly more joyous influences. But “Length of Love” is a true surprise, a nearly straight-up rock `n’ roll track that falls somewhere between Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Clinic. It bounces and squeals (courtesy of some moody organ), but most importantly, it rocks.
One thing that remains the same for Interpol is the lack of needless instrumental bullshit. Unlike fellow New Yorkers The Strokes, Interpol combines the talents of all players into a lush broth of melody rather than keeping the rhythm section basic and primitive to show off the talents of the lead guitarist and singer. Now that I think about it, I feel a bit silly for doubting that they could pull it off a second time. I mean, after all, I was infatuated with their first record so much that I hardly listened to anything else for a few weeks after I discovered it. The initial shock of hearing Turn on the Bright Lights is gone, unfortunately, but with Antics, Interpol has created a stunning second chapter in what could be an unstoppable body of work.
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
The Walkmen – Bows and Arrows
Doves – The Last Broadcast