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Restraint drew me to Interpol. Amid the mess of rock uncertainty in the early 2000s, Interpol found their sound, a synthesis between the sparsity of Joy Division and the danceability of Franz Ferdinand. The songwriting and voice of frontman Paul Banks shined through a sparse rhythm section; vocal melodies and clever lyrics cut between trebly guitars and captivating drum beats. There was a gripping subtlety to Interpol which set them apart.
So how does the 2014 effort compare with Interpol’s creative peak? Their self-titled 2010 release sounded like a hollow reiteration of the band’s sound without the substance of strong lyricism. El Pintor is a definite improvement on Interpol. Sonically, the album is powerful. Rock veteran Alan Moulder mixed El Pintor, but with vocals and guitars drenched in reverb, it sounds like it was mixed by an ambient producer. Many of the songs crescendo into gigantic layered cathedral-guitar ballads. The listener is treated to the grooves of Sam Fogarino, whose drumming cuts through the loose texture and proves himself again an essential asset to Interpol’s sound. Strong points come when the album expands its harmonic palette – the jazzy chords in the intro of ‘Same Town, New Story’ and the key-changes in ‘Tidal Wave’ both do well to break up riffs which would otherwise seem monotonous.
But once again, Paul Banks disappoints with his lyricism and his failure to match up to the catchy hooks on Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics. He sings “The Ocean, I could go anywhere! I could go anywhere! So free, my place in the sun, I could go anywhere!” in the chorus to ‘Anywhere’. Maybe these lyrics are ‘deceptively simple’, but to me, they sound like the poetry of an inspired 14-year-old. The vocals almost seem an afterthought when the instrumentation sounds so huge and haunting. Did Banks set himself too much work when he decided to cover bass duties after Carlos Dengler quit the band?
Overall, the album is extremely listenable and contains an energy not present in Interpol’s last few albums, but as the band tries to develop this new reverb-drenched sound, it fails to give us another ‘Evil’. If you haven’t listened to Interpol before, I suggest you return to Antics.