Interpol | El Pintor | Rating: 8.5/11 |
When we first got the memo that the beloved, somewhat beleaguered New York City former foursome (now a trio: Paul Banks, Sam Fogarino & Daniel Kessler) known as Interpol had album #5 in their pocket, we had but one simple – yet very honest – request of them:
Please don’t suck.
After the initial listen, one of the most noticeable (and appreciable) aspects of El Pintor is that it is (thankfully) a stronger framed album than their previous and self-titled effort. For better or for worse, Interpol has always had a box in which they exist and – on their best records – have thrived. Some bands do fine when attempts to step or color outside of their extremely well-defined lines are made; others not so much. Then there is losing sight of that which made you substantial, discernable and bloody interesting in the first place which is never a good thing. Both of these afflictions, for one reason or another, have touched Interpol over the years and the argument can be made that they (the Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, Carlos D and Sam Fogarino version) had peaked with Turn On The Bright Lights only to replicate with Antics. So where does that leave us with El Pintor?
Simply put – and leaving the intricate dissection and cleaving analysis to the point of “Dude, it’s not that serious” to others – Interpol has made a sophisticated shift in altering the physiology of their sound. From all inherent brood and sexual noir to a more gracefully glacial representation of a band still in possession of a substantial and atmospheric gift. The beauty is within the feeling that this effort actually feels somewhat effortless. With Kessler most familiar with his razor-like and keen guitar tones and Fogarino cinching things tight with his stylized and punctuated percussion, it’s business as usual for Interpol and yet they sound completely relaxed.
After an intelligent and fully confident lead in with “All The Rage Back Home,” El Pintor splays out into a collection of pieces that seamlessly fit together and show the band’s collective strength. After the slightly luscious shuffling “My Desire” ripe with Kessler gliding into and out of notes like he does it in his sleep and Banks a “frustrated man,” things trip into even more impressive territory. Perhaps it’s imagined but “Same Town, New Story” carries a soulful undercurrent of a certain Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band song (and making that come to mind is pretty badass), but it’s the laser-like surgical strikes of Kessler’s guitar beside Banks’ languid crooning from a female’s perspective (somewhat more literal than we’re used to) that is key. And when Fogarino steps in, he levels the track, placing it squarely in line with some of Interpol’s best work.
Ahead of his time with a bass line, the absence of the mustachioed one (original bassist Carlos D) may continue to be missed but on El Pintor Banks holds down the position effectively and does so with there being less competition between the two instruments: The two instruments being the bass and his voice. Banks is still all matter-of-fact vocal velvet imploring, “If love comes, honey, take it / Only 1 in a hundred make it,” with injections of cautious falsettos to throw off and change the temperature in places like on the oddly optimistic (yes, optimistic) “My Blue Supreme” while a scant two songs later, things go aggro, edgy and punk rock with “Ancient Ways.” Here is a traditionally enigmatic Interpol album putting itself and listeners through some familiar paces of contract and release as “Twice As Hard” paints a loftily bold and ethereal picture to float El Pintor to a close and before you know it, 40 minutes has gone by.
Now there’s a good sign. Welcome back, Interpol.
Essential Tracks: “Same Town, New Story,” “All The Rage Back Home,” “My Blue Supreme,” “My Desire”