Interpol’s “El Pintor” falls short
Kevin Salat | Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Looking back on their career thus far, the fact that Interpol didn’t quickly fade out of the limelight after “Turn on the Bright Lights” is nothing short of a miracle. That intense and risk-taking album is one of the greatest rock debuts in recent memory (and probably one of my personal top ten favorite records of all time). The perfect soundtrack for getting lost in the city late at night, it is an assured and thrill-seeking record filled with sharp musicianship that the band just hasn’t lived up to since.
However, Interpol’s continued success has always come from them knowing exactly who they want to be, despite their growing maturity. Lead singer Paul Banks was an anxious, overwhelmed 24-year-old when “Bright Lights” came out. As time has gone on, the passion from that debut has waned but somehow has developed into a more adult post-punk sound. The “Bright Lights” urgency was present on a solid number of tracks on their 2004 follow-up album “Antics,” but the tone has now aged gracefully into an established sophistication with the same unmistakable Interpol aesthetic.
“El Pintor” is no exception to this trend. The band members are now in their mid-to-late 30s; they clearly recognize their age while still knowing how to enjoy themselves. With its up-tempo building of intensity, album opener “All The Rage Back Home” kicks things off in the most fun way possible, making it the easiest-to-love Interpol track in a decade. Additionally, “My Desire” and “Anywhere” display some strong guitar riffs that evolve into lively rock songs.
Banks’ lyrical themes revolve around a heavy weight on his shoulders. “Feels like the whole world’s coming down on me,” he sings in “Same Town, New Story.” On the hard-hitting “Ancient Ways,” he reiterates worrying about “[being] beaten by the weight of it.” This all comes to a climax with the aptly titled “Tidal Wave,” an immediate track that shows Interpol at full force. Looking at the songs individually, there really isn’t a dud in the batch.
Taking the album as a whole though, “El Pintor” is confident, but not nearly as inspiring as Interpol was back in its prime. I mean, “Breaker 1” is certainly no “Obstacle 1” (one of the most engaging triumphs of their debut), and overall the music just bleeds into the rest of their good-not-great discography from the past decade. This is just another Interpol album, and we should all simply accept that fact. The band seems to be comfortable with it and is instead just focusing on having fun.
That makes it difficult to recommend the album to anyone besides die-hard Interpol fans desperately waiting for new material. But if you like this type of post-punk sound, you can’t go wrong grabbing a few of these tracks for your music library. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a gateway into Interpol, start at the top with “Bright Lights” and work your way down to “El Pintor.”