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Interpol trumps lofty expectations

Matthew Solarski | Thursday, October 7, 2004

New York City’s favorite sons have returned at long last with what is by far the most anticipated indie release of 2004. Make no mistake: “Antics,” the follow-up to 2002’s milestone debut, “Turn On The Bright Lights,” proves itself every bit as scintillating, inspired, and mystifying as its esteemed predecessor. The new album opens with some of the warmest electric organ chords this side of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” On this introductory track, entitled “Next Exit,” lead vocalist Paul Banks delivers an ode to his beloved home city, proclaiming his hopeful intent to “make this place a heart / to be a part of / again.” The song sets the mood for the remainder of the album, and one can almost see the night-lit city coming into focus on the horizon, as an approaching car and its sartorially-savvy occupants, brimming with all the promise of a nascent Friday night, drift past the strobe lighting of the overpasses. On this fateful night, however, something sinister lingers upon the air of the great city.”Evil” immediately follows, ostensibly a love song, but darker undertones emerge in the final verse. It springs to life in much the same manner as “Obstacle 1” from Interpol’s previous effort, as Banks advises with his trademark orotund delivery: “Leave some shards under the belly / lay some grease inside my hand / It’s a sentimental jury / And the makings of a good plan.” The crime theme carries through many of “Antics'” songs, manifested in such titles as “Narc,” “Not Even Jail,” and “Public Pervert” and in pithy, enigmatic lyrics. In “Slow Hands,” a fast-paced standout, frantic guitar and bass dance about lines like “See the loving that surrounds me / dissipate in a violent haze” and finally, “We spies, intimate / Slow hands, killer.”Both the new record and its precursor exhibit a decidedly nocturnal vibe. Where “Bright Lights” took listeners deep into the dying hours of a long night, ultimately setting them adrift with the brilliant “Leif Erikson,” “Antics” heralds the coming of a new night, rife with new adventure, new confrontation, and new peril. The record concludes with a gorgeous new recording of a well-known B-side, “A Time To Be So Small.” Like “Leif Erikson,” this dark lullaby resolves little and unsettles more than it lulls – a fitting finale for an album so keen on precarious mystery.The band manages, most uncannily, to put together music that strays considerably from comfortable verse-chorus-verse conventions and abounds in cryptic, occasionally downright ominous, lyrical imagery. Yet all the same, one cannot help but find the sound endearing in much the same way as that of significantly more literal bands like the Cure and the Smiths. Interpol thrives upon dialectics like these, crafting songs, which are unconventional but somehow accessible, dark and yet simultaneously uplifting, patternless and yet instantly memorable. Interpol boasts two secret weapons that are hardly secrets but certainly no less formidable for it: bassist Carlos D. and guitarist Daniel Kessler. The former lays out rhythms like so many rail ties, achieving at once the relentless heart of John Henry and the taut, mechanistic precision of the steam drill. Carlos injects enough twists and turns into the track to provide the Interpolocomotive – brought to life by Kessler’s crisp, chiming, evocative guitar lines – with a diverse and altogether compelling journey across these dangerous, moon-drenched, sonic landscapes.”Antics” does not depart significantly from the distinct style established on “Turn On The Bright Lights.” So then is it more of the same? Perhaps, but when the same is this good, one can never quite have enough.