If you follow Internet music chatter, you have
heard of Interpol by now. Let me sum up real quick so we can
move on: they are latest New York Band that is going to SAVE
ROCK MUSIC (presumably from the percieved Evil Axis of Hip-Hop
and Electronica) , this time by sounding like Joy Division.
You have heard this story before: BRMC,
The White Stripes,
The Strokes, etc. Blather,
I have not been overtly impressed with any of the rest of the
over-hyped crowd, but Interpol actually entertain me. Why? Well,
i suppose it's because they do, in fact, sound kinda like Joy
Division, and thus i can connect to the music. Noise-blues
(BRMC) and Garage Rock (Stripes/Strokes) are not anything that
amuse me all that much, so the latest incarnation of those sounds
fails to impress. On the other hand, i <heart> Joy Division,
so a band with an obvious influence in going to at least interest
That said, i don't think that they really sound like Joy Division.
I mean, not any more than, say, My
Favorite. Which means there is a HUGE influence in guitar
style, but the mood is different. Joy Division were masters
at portraying paranoia and loneliness in music, and no one does
it quite that well. Interpol have a similarity in sound, but
their music is sunnier and happier.
And that is what makes Turn On The Bright Lights
so great. With the "too freaking depressing for words" condition
of the world these days, a band that successfully recreated
the sheer existential angst of Joy Division would probably push
me over the edge. But Interpol are happier. Not that their world
is all roses and sunshine, but it is not totally bleak.
It is the guitarwork that speaks to me the most. The guitars
chime and squeal with loads of treble and high-on-the-string
arpeggios. Particularly on Untitled, the album's opener,
and again on Obstacle 1. But Interpol are also capable
of creating a punk squeal: on the opening of Say Hello To
The Angels the guitars chime a siren call of trebly notes,
and those same guitars thunder under distortion on the disturbing
Roland. The guitarwork is wonderful. I love that punk-influenced
sound, and it is done very well here.
The vocals are pretty good too, with some interesting turns
of phrase. My favorite line comes in PDA: "You're so
cute when you're frustrated". Ah yes. But in general, the vocalist
has a way with words. It's not like he's Kerouac or something,
but it's a step up from the "my girl done left me"-type
lyrics that seem to infest Indie Rock these days.
Now, any review of Interpol must mention how the singer's voice
is similar to that of Ian Curits, the long-dead superstar of
Joy Division. I can kind of hear it, but in all honesty the
first comparison i made was to that guy who sang for The Blue
Nile. (A mid-80's Britsh New Wave act. Very good. You should
look them up.) However -- where does this comparison really
get us? Who cares if he sounds kind of like Ian Curtis? Or Blue
Nile guy? Whatever. And yet -- i think i have read five reviews
that make this comparison, and here i am contributing another
one. Why? I don't think that, if i were to hear an unknown song
by Interpol, i would ask, "Wait -- is this a lost Joy Division
tune, because that certainly sounds like Ian!" No, i don't
see that happening. So what's the point? And, more importantly,
why am i trapped in it? Urgh! Interpol's singer is some sort
of Black Hole of Music Criticism. Save yourselves.....
Moving right along, we come to the rhythm section. It is here
that the Joy Division influence shows most. After all, we all
know that the real genius of Joy Division was Peter Hook, the
Greatest Bassist Ever To Touch The 4-Stringed Instrument. It
is the tight rhythmic underbelly of Interpol tunes that really
makes this album work. The drums and the bass tie everything
together, propelling the songs forward in a most satisfying
So, to sum up: Interpol are being hyped all over the place.
They are heavily influenced by late 70's post-punk, but they
manage to have a more optimistic view of life than many of the
people they are influenced by. And they write catchy tunes to
boot. So, if you are a fan of that sort of stuff, check them
out. If you aren't into it, this probably isn't going to win
However, i do not think that they are the saviours of anything.
Come to think of it, i am not even sure what that would mean
in a rock n roll context!