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Interpol stays true and holds our admiration

Ryan Raffin | Friday, October 5, 2007

Interpol has a lot to live up to.

Widely acclaimed from the major music publications to the online tastemakers, its first record, “Turn on the Bright Lights,” was heralded for its gloomy yet danceable songs and its tight rhythm section, but mostly just because it sounded like Joy Division. Their sophomore record, “Antics,” continued in this vein, but was slightly poppier, so sales increased. Interpol then signed a major label, so the trifecta was complete. Critical acclaim? Check. Potential hitmakers? Check. Major label debut forthcoming? Check. All these loaded the dice against Interpol, but luckily for the band and the listeners, they’ve decided to stick to what made them (semi) famous.

Throughout “Our Love to Admire,” the listener hears much of the same sounds of the first two albums. Only occasionally does the band step outside what it knows, making sure that, when it does, its experiments actually work for the band. Interpol knows that a radical change in style will alienate fans and an unchanging sound will cause them to lose interest. Instead, it adds keyboards in small doses, varies its tempos from song to song, and sticks to what it knows works. Lead singer Paul Banks’ tenor is unchanged, guitarist Daniel Kessler brings the jagged sounding guitar-work, and drummer Sam Fogarino and bassist Carlos D. are as tight and efficient as ever.

The album opens to a slow burn of guitar and keyboard on “Pioneer to the Falls” which sets the listener up for nearly six-minutes of Doors-influenced bliss. Easily the album’s best song, it stands among the finest the band has ever written. Don’t get the idea that this is an album with only one good song though. The first single, “The Heinrich Maneuver,” brings the dance-y up-tempo pop the band has always had, a la older songs “Obstacle 1” and “Evil.” This continues most notably on “Mammoth,” once again showing off the band’s arena-sized ambitions. Such has always been Interpol’s dichotomy – the atmospheric gloom contrasting with slightly danceable pop. And similar to their prior work, it is present here in spades.

Another constant carried over from previous albums is obscure lyrics. Interpol has never been easy to interpret; its songs have always seemed to be about some combination of liquor, women and New York City. This time around it looks like the excesses of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle can be added to the mix, if song titles like “No I in Threesome” and “Rest My Chemistry” are any indication. Don’t worry though, Interpol have not become Mötley Crüe, and the lyrics about such decadence are far and few between (and likely tongue in cheek anyways).

By the time the final two songs roll around, the tempo has slowed to a crawl and it’s time for the atmospherics. Preceded by the peppy “Who Do You Think?” the band ends the album in typically gloomy fashion. “Wrecking Ball” notably uses backing vocals and keyboards to create a huge sound, taking the group’s epic aspirations in a slightly different direction. “The Lighthouse” closes out the album on the opposite extreme, starting with only swelling guitar and Banks’ vocals, finishing five minutes later in an instrumental crescendo that leaves you ready to hear the album all over again.

Is the album perfect? Not quite, but close enough to be called great. The album lags in its second half, but picks up nicely for the final three songs. Minor filler issues aside, this is definitely one of the best albums of the year. Interpol should be proud to add such a fine piece of work to its already stellar discography.