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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 22, 2010 @ 7:30 am

    Enter Paul, Pursued by an Album Club

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    Daragh Downes here. My thanks to Laurence Mackin for his kind invitation to guest post here on the new Ticket Album Club, which kicks off in today’s issue of The Ticket.

    Each month we will be asking a small group of people from different walks of life to take one key release and really live with it for several weeks. They then come into us and share their first, second and eleventh impressions of the album. Is it a grower? A shrinker? Or just a plain old stinker?

    For our first Album Club we gave copies of the new Interpol record to:

    -Pursued by a Bear’s own Laurence Mackin
    -Dublin student Nike Olumide
    -Recruitment specialist Theresa Black
    -Undertones frontman & top indie/alternative DJ Paul McLoone.

    The original plan was to lock these four notables in solitary confinement for a few weeks with just bread, water and a CD player. Pending clearance from the timorous souls in Legal, however, we’ve had to make do this month with merely asking our guests to stay away from reviews, online buzz, dinner parties and text messaging.

    I must confess I was dying to hear what Laurence, Nike, Theresa and Paul had made of the album. As a longtime Interpol agnostic myself, I had come to this fourth release with fairly low expectations – expectations which were dispiritingly confirmed on first couple of listens. The songs sounded tired and uninspired to my ears. But I forced myself to keep listening. By about listen number five I was blown away by how blown away I was. By the time of the Album Club meeting, I had come to the firm conclusion that this album was a work of haunting and at times ingenious beauty. This fact kind of scares me. How many other new albums have I unjustly written off in recent years after just a couple of impressionistic listens? Would I be better off listening a lot more to a lot less?

    The round table discussion between our Album Clubbers was a delight to listen in on. Hope you enjoy dipping into the extended highlights below.

    We’d love to hear your thoughts on Interpol. Did it please or disappoint the Interpol fans out there amongst you? Has it converted any other Interpol agnostics to the cause? How kind or unkind have the weeks been since its release? Is it holding up to repeated listens? Where will it stand in the canon in six months’ time? Last but not least: is the pretty sharp gender divide displayed by our panel (females anti-, males pro-Interpol) in any way representative? Let us know!

    P.S. Next month’s Album Club record will be Belle & Sebastian Write About Love. Happy (clappy) listening…

    ***

    TICKET ALBUM CLUB #1
    INTERPOL
    BY INTERPOL

    LOVE AT FIRST SOUND?

    THERESA BLACK: The only time I could listen to music was on my mp3 player cycling to work. And my initial impressions were: it’s not cycling music! On the way home I cycle uphill, on the way in I cycle downhill so it quickly became my downhill music. My initial impressions weren’t very good up to the first week, to the point where I couldn’t do it any more, so I had a break. But when I went back to it, I don’t whether it was familiarity, but it felt like it was like, ‘Oh, was that – ? I don’t think that was the album I was listening to last week.’ So whether it had grown on me or whether it was familiarity, like your husband’s face, it grew on me and the more I listened to it the more it grew on me – not to the point that I think I’m their number one fan, but it became tolerable. I didn’t feel like driving into traffic anymore!
    DARAGH DOWNES: And what kind of music would you generally listen to?
    THERESA: Music would tend to be a background thing. I’d be into a wide range. But I don’t really have an allegiance. It would be quite varied.
    DARAGH: Would you often live with an album that would come out? Or would you tend to ‘consume’ song-by-song?
    THERESA: I would tend to be very safe. If I found something that I like that would tend to be the one that I go to immediately rather than… so I’d tend to just stay with one album.
    DARAGH: What was the last album that you looked forward to being released and that you really lived with?
    THERESA: I don’t ever buy music. My husband would tend to buy it and he knows what I like. The last album, say, that he bought me that I liked was probably the most recent Beyoncé.
    DARAGH: And you liked it?
    THERESA: I did like it!
    DARAGH: That’s ok. Don’t be embarrassed!
    PAUL McLOONE: I thought you were going to say something bad!
    DARAGH: How about you, Nike?
    NIKE OLUMIDE: I listened to the album, like, anytime I was on the computer, so like if I’m browsing on Facebook, playing games. That’s when I listened to the album. Once every day I listened to it, and usually just the first two songs … I listened to it through a few times and then just listened to the first three songs. Because all the tracks are really hard to get into. Maybe because I didn’t put a disc on in my room, but it was just really hard to get into. I listened to it on headphones and kept losing interest after two or three songs.
    DARAGH: Did that get any better?
    NIKE: No, it didn’t get better. I listened to it right through again last night. I wouldn’t buy this. It just didn’t grow on me. I didn’t get anything, the lyrics didn’t hit me or anything.

    ***

    VOX UNPOPULAR

    LAURENCE MACKIN: I listened to it I’d say about 15 to 20 times and I do tend to listen to albums all together because I like that narrative structure that a lot of people put into an album as a complete unit. My initial thing was I didn’t like it very much. I found it very difficult to get past Paul Banks’s vocal. It’s really bleak and it’s very heavy. And they’ve also done this thing where they seem to have recorded two vocals and they’ve put one vocal on top of the other. I know this sounds very music nerdy, but it sounds like a keyboard almost in places and it’s very synthy I thought. I really didn’t like that. But a lot of people told me – because I quite like Interpol though I wouldn’t be their biggest fan in the world – but they said this one’s a grower and it’ll take a long time. And it was only yesterday evening when I listened to it and I went, oh hang on a sec there’s something actually happening here. It was the first time I listened to it and I actually wanted to play it again. It took that many listens because I was really struggling, I was swearing your name last week! I still haven’t made my mind up about it but it’s really started to click. Like Theresa, I left it alone for a while and listened to other music that didn’t make me want to jump off a building – and then went back to it. And I listen to miserable music, I love miserable music, I’m horrendously grumpy. This should be right up my street but I think I needed to go away and go back to it and then I really started to get it more.
    DARAGH: How do you feel now about Banks’s vocal?
    LAURENCE: It’s funny, they’re sort of known for their polished production. Some of the stuff sounds gorgeous, I love the bass and the drum sounds, I love the rhythm section sounds. And from a real music nerdy point of view I can listen to a track just with a really good bass sound sometimes. I find it really satisfying. But with his vocal, he’s a got this big flat… like Tom Smith, lead singer with Editors, this kind of baroque feel to it. But it should just sound what it sounds like. Banks’s vocal is very overproduced, very compressed and processed. I found that very hard to get past. Since last night? I’m sure it is that I’ve trained myself to listen to his vocal and I’m kind of used to it now and I can appreciate the other stuff that’s going on. I think I actually started listening to it louder, that was one of the big things. I was getting so annoyed with it I had the headphones on and I was pushing the headphones up really loud to listen to the thing and just get past the jaysusing vocal. I was then able to hear the bass and the drums and the kick and the groove off it, then I started to get into it. I’m getting more positive about it. I wish we’d done this next week!
    THERESA: No, then we’d have to listen to it for another week!
    LAURENCE: I think I’m on the way back up…
    THERESA: Cycling back home yesterday I thought thank God I’ll never have to listen to this again, but then on the bus on the way in this morning it kind of changed things and I thought I might listen to that again.
    LAURENCE: I think you need to temper it with something else like Two Door Cinema Club or something that’s really upbeat and bouncy and keep sort of swapping between the two and you can sort of live with it for a while.
    THERESA: But the tone of his voice, it’s all so drab, it’s so depressing. As if he couldn’t even bear to lift his voice to sing it. I’m surprised looking at all these lyrics, cos I couldn’t hear anything. I was trying to, so that maybe I could sing it. You were listening to it so much you thought something would go in. But I didn’t think any of it made any sense. I would have loved to get something that joined up and went together. I’d have to listen to it for another six weeks to get lyrics that went together…
    NIKE: I think his voice is the problem. I could listen if it was instrumental but … you can’t hear what he’s saying. The tone of his voice is very, very boring.
    DARAGH: What kind of person are you hearing behind that voice?
    THERESA: He just thinks he’s really cool … There are certain tracks where that drone, where you just couldn’t wait for it to be over. It’s as if he wanted it all in the same tone.
    PAUL: I think that’s fair enough. That’s what they go for and not everybody’s going to like it … I’m a huge Interpol fan. When they came along I thought the idea of a bunch of guys in really good suits sounding a bit like Joy Division was an excellent idea especially for a chap of my vintage. Loved the first two records. Thought the last record was a slight misstep with some of it. So came to this with quite a level of anticipation, not least because I was intrigued, not always in a good way, by the Julian Plenti/Paul Banks solo record which surprised me in a lot of ways, not all of them good. So I was very interested to see what bearing that would have on the fourth Interpol record. The word on it wasn’t great. In fact the bass player [Carlos Dengler] has walked out on the band, he and the band have parted company immediately after he finished his work on this. So that could be a bad thing, maybe it’s completely amicable, who knows? They’re not known for the caring & sharing approach to what they do, they’re a mystique band, they’ve always had that kind of thing about them. It was shrouded in this vague sense of, Oh is the band in trouble? I have to agree with a lot of what you just said, Laurence. The sound on it I’m surprised by. The last couple of records were so brilliantly produced. I’m surprised to find the name Alan Moulder on the mixing credit because he’s really really good. I think this could have sounded better. I think the vocal does sound kind of harsh, it’s sort of in your ear, it’s sort of hard to live with that vocal, it’s kind of a bit sore on the ear whatever way it’s been recorded.

    ***

    VOX UNPOPULAR (PART II)

    THERESA: I think the music far outweighs the vocals or the lyrics. So it was only when I could get over the vocals and not think about the lyrics that I enjoyed the music. And the music is good … In some songs, the voice was horrendous … In my mind he was trying to make it look as if he was making a message but I don’t think he had a message.
    PAUL: There’s a certain defeated vibe off it. Not that they’re a defeated band but a sense of defeat in the character that’s singing. Now whether that’s Paul Banks genuinely going through some sort of crisis. Or maybe he’s through the other side now, maybe he’s fine now and this is his cathartic therapy. Whether it’s a genuine or an assumed position or indeed character – he’s one of those singers who might start talking about, ‘I’m a character in this song’ – which he has every right to – I don’t know, I’m not sure. But there’s a certain sense of … it’s downbeat, it is downbeat, there’s no question about it.
    LAURENCE: There’s parts of it where his vocal comes in on Always Malaise and it just rings… Oh my God … It’s so hard not to skip that.
    DARAGH: Always Malaise? That’s my favourite song!
    THERESA: It’s your favourite song???
    LAURENCE: When his vocal rolls in like a stormcloud … it’s just, ‘Oh, come on..’.
    DARAGH: Is that not an artistic achievement in itself, to make you feel that way?
    LAURENCE: Yes, let’s say he’s trying to put across the fact that he’s this very tortured soul. But the simple fact was that I didn’t believe him, and I felt it was all a bit Wuthering Heights, back-of-the-hand-to-the-brow going Alwayyys..
    PAUL: I think it’s a good rock song, I think it’s a good song, but again the title, it leapt out at me when I looked at the tracklisting.
    DARAGH: Might it be meant ironically?
    PAUL: It could have been self-parody. That’s always a very tough one to call. Unless people are really telegraphing the fact that, Yeah, I’m playing with your preconceptions of what I’m about. It’s very hard to tell when people are doing it … It’s always a question, is he taking the piss?
    LAURENCE: It’s like that line in The Simpsons where there’s two teenagers and one goes, ‘Are you being sarcastic, dude?’ and he goes, ‘I don’t even know any more’. On one level is it ironic, on one level is it actually just dumb?
    PAUL: And this band are obviously in thrall to a lot of what Joy Division do. It’s well documented that Ian Curtis, some of the things that were going on lyrically, as events proved, he really felt that, he really did. He was in a bad place and he was writing about it. But within that, with Joy Division, I’ve always found that somehow, even though Curtis does have the imperious ringing thing that Paul Banks has certainly been influenced by, there’s always this certain kind of humanity to what Curtis was doing, or maybe it’s because it was genuine, who knows, but it wasn’t actually depressing, I don’t think. It was emotive, and it carried you along and was very stirring and very compelling. But it wasn’t what you’d call depressing. Whereas sometimes Paul Banks, yes I’d have to admit, the constant intoning and haranguing, and as you’ve already alluded to the narrowness of what he does, he doesn’t have a lot of notes available to him. He’s not in the same league as a vocalist as guys like Curtis. But there can be a certain old flea in your ear kind of thing that can set in after a while. Depends what mood I’m in, to be honest.

    ***

    ‘PAUL BANKS DOESN’T HAVE TICKLES.’ DISCUSS WITH SUITABLE REFERENCE TO THE TEXT.

    DARAGH: Whenever I hear Paul Banks or Thom Yorke singing, I want to go up to them and give them a little tickle. Just to see if they’re physically capable of laughter.
    THERESA: I want to do something different to him. ‘Shut up!!’
    PAUL: Kick him?
    LAURENCE: I have a feeling he’d sort of answer, ‘Paul Banks doesn’t have tickles’. I just have this idea he’d talk about himself in the third person.
    DARAGH: Do you reckon all this solemnity is just strategic posing on his part or is it from the heart?
    PAUL: I’ve always got the impression with Interpol that it’s all very studied. But I don’t have a problem with that. People get too hung up on that. It’s art and therefore a lot of it is artificial. You set out to make a record that you want to make and whether you ‘mean it, man’, to me I think that’s an increasingly tedious kind of issue for me. Is it a good record or a bad record, you know? And that’s a subjective thing. That’s why discussions like this are always so interesting because people will always have very different perspectives on it. And yeah, I totally get why somebody says that Paul Banks’s voice gets on your wick. To be honest with you I probably couldn’t listen to two Interpol albums back to back. I would want a break from that imperious, commanding voice that he does [cue pitch-perfect imitation of Banks's vocal style] and it all goes back to singers like Ian Curtis, David Bowie, even Jim Morrison. Quite stripped of a certain warmth. That was a studied thing, a deliberate thing.
    DARAGH: You mention Ian Curtis. But he of course took his own life, a fact which now seems to confer a kind of retrospective authenticity on his sombre singing style. How authentic do you think Banks is?
    LAURENCE: I think he’s identified his strengths and he plays to them. That’s the kind of voice he has and that’s the kind of voice he goes for. And there’s a couple of people around – Editors – Foals – The National. The singer with The National does a lot of the things this is trying to do. I saw The National at Electric Picnic and the vocalist has that same… he intones the lyrics. And at Electric Picnic he went mental and started screaming into the mic. The sound engineer couldn’t handle it and it sounded really bad, really really awful. I realised he’s really good at doing that intoning thing, it’s a fabulous record, but when he tries to push it into that really emotive thing it didn’t work. And I get the feeling that the same thing would happen here … It is a very narrow band that he sings within. Bad lyrics do bother me, they really really annoy me and when you’re singing within that narrow register and then your lyrics are crap on top of that, it just feels like you’re being beaten over the head a little bit.

    ***

    AN AUSTERE GROWER

    PAUL: It’s a bleak record, there’s no getting around it. Even by their standards it’s an austere experience and that is what they trade in. They’re not known for their happy clappy anthems. You get what you sign up for with Interpol. With this one – I listen to a lot of music, as you can imagine, because of my job. Albums come in and a lot of times I’ve got to skip through tracks immediately to see which track sounds the most obvious that I would play at half past seven tonight. So you’re listening with different critical criteria at work. So I had to very deliberately not listen to this in that way in view of doing this. Sort of take it home and have it on in the background when I’m cooking … I have to say, it is hard work, and even as an Interpol fan, a Joy Division fan and a fan of Echo and the Bunnymen and all those kind of austere, dramatic, dark bands, this is seemingly to me a quite downbeat record, even in that context. There is a defeatedness about some of it and I don’t know how much of this is kind of playacting and they just decided to position themselves in this way or how much of it is genuinely not boding well for the future of this band. Having said that, it does grow, it grows on you, it’s a real grower of a record. Never was that a truer phrase actually than in the case of this record. It creeps up on you. And even the tracks that – I would normally single out four or five tracks on an album and rotate them on the show and I try to work my way through most of an album over its on-air first lifespan. And some of those have been increasingly sounding good on air. And there’s a funny thing that happens with radio as well where you listen to a track on your computer or even in the studio before the red light goes on. For some reason, maybe it’s just a change in one’s mental attitude because you’ve gone on air and your nervous system has adjusted to that, records can sound a lot better or indeed a lot worse when you’re on air. And the tracks on this album have been sounding better and better and better. Before I started presenting I was a radio producer for years and I used to notice certain presenters saying, ‘Oh yeah, it’s going to sound great on air.’ And I thought that just meant it sounds great on the radio. But no, they were describing what I’ve just been describing. We played it on the show and when I was sitting there listening to it going out, it sounded great. A lot of these tracks are like that. A track like Memory Serves for instance, on first listen I was going, hmmm don’t know, it’s the usual Interpol big echoey guitar build-up and here we go. It’s actually much better than that when you’ve listened to it for the fifth or sixth time. And several of the same songs play that same trick on you.

    ***

    BEES AND SNAKES IN CANADA?

    LAURENCE: I really didn’t like Barricade. I thought it was [unparliamentary language deleted], really cheesy … When he started singing that chorus, It starts to feel like a barricade, / To keep us away… Is that the best you could do lyrics-wise? Cos it is very poppy…
    DARAGH: First time I heard it, I thought he was singing, It starts to feel like a barricade, / To keep us awake, to keep us awake, / In Canada. Which I thought was a pretty uncalled-for dig at the neighbours to the north…
    LAURENCE: From a radio point of view I think that would probably be the single and I think 8 out of 10 producers would probably pick that as a single.
    DARAGH: Is it trying too hard to be a single?
    LAURENCE: I expected a polished dark album from Interpol. Barricade sounded like they were trying to make a pop song almost. I found it really hard to get past the lyrics of it.
    DARAGH: There has been much debate on fan forums about what he’s actually singing on one of the lines. Is it Bees and snakes need homes, or Thieves and snakes need homes?
    PAUL: Give us thieves. It’s not bees. That said, that National album had bees all over it. … I have to be honest. Although part of what I do is singing and involves lyrics, lyrics don’t stand out for me as much as they used to. I used to be very obsessive, ‘What’s he saying in this song?’. Maybe it’s a time issue, because I’ve got to get through so much music now. In many ways what I do it changes the way you enjoy music, it changes the way music hits you, it warps it. And lyrics don’t really leap out at me as much. And now that you [Laurence] draw attention to it, [the Barricade lyric] is a bit sixth form alright! Having said that, I think it’s a very strong, muscular kind of single. Very kind of, very Interpol. I remember the first time I played it, around six weeks ago, I actually went, meh… I was sitting in the office, stuck it on, all excited, you know – first Interpol single… Didn’t really do it for me first couple of times. And again that thing about it being on the air and it kind of started to really, really grow on me. I really like it now. And that chorus, weak lyric notwithstanding, I think is a strong chorus. I’d like to say it’s an obvious kind of single … I’ve just realised Barricade is a terrible word because Spandau Ballet had that song, Through the Barricades. It shouldn’t be allowed!

    ***

    ACROSS THE BARRICADE

    PAUL: The sequencing of the album is a bit strange. It gets off to a good start, then it kind of slumps back, languishes a bit, then you’re hit with the single Barricade and more uptempo again. I don’t know if I’d have sequenced it that way. I had a bit of difficulty listening to it like that as a whole. Not crazy about the sequencing. But that’s a very subjective thing. People are always going to have a different take on that. So: listened to in its entirety about ten times now. As a fan I’d put it better than the last record but not really in the same league as the first two.
    DARAGH: How would you have sequenced the album yourself?
    PAUL: I think Barricade would make a great album opener. It’s got that kind of announcing-itself intro that would work perfectly to raise the curtain on the album. Then I’d have Success. Then maybe Memory Serves, or maybe bring … Lights I would swap with where Barricade is, cos I’m an old-fashioned guy, I think in terms of end of Side One songs and end of Side Two songs. The Undoing is a great closer. Lights I would have moved down the album a wee bit more as a centrepiece cos it is a great tune. In fact it’s a little too close to Memory Serves in terms of running order cos it’s got a very similar intro.
    LAURENCE: Summer Well, track 3, it doesn’t work.
    PAUL: Yeah, it’s too soon.
    LAURENCE: Track 3 should be your single, I know it sounds clichéd, but it should be your Beyoncé track! That’s definitely not it. I’d put it probably towards the end of the second half. I think Lights is a really strong song, I would have moved that up. And I really liked Safe Without. I really like the bass groove.
    PAUL: Yeah, Safe Without is a great track. There are great songs there. I just think the whole is perhaps … it’s a little flat production-wise, it’s a little thin-sounding in parts. I’m used to a much more muscular overall sonic thing from this band. But you know, every band’s got a right to try something different, it’s their fourth album, they’ve been around a long time. Sometimes we just want to make this very difficult record, some bands just do that. Radiohead do it and they sell ten million.
    DARAGH: If you were only allowed to take one track from this album home with you, which one would it be?
    THERESA: The one that I enjoyed listening to most was Barricade. And it was like, ‘You’re getting through it, getting through it’, then Barricade came and you went, ‘Oh right, great’, and you listen to it. It was much better in my mind than the rest of them.
    DARAGH: Had you already been hearing Barricade on the radio as a single? Were you preprogrammed, as it were, to like it from having heard it on the radio?
    THERESA: No, because the first few times I didn’t like it. The first time it was ok. Then it kept getting worse and worse. At the beginning I didn’t like Barricade. It was only in the last couple of days that I thought, ‘I really like that song’.
    NIKE: If I had to pick one song, it would be Memory Serves. It reminded me a bit of Muse…
    DARAGH: Paul?
    PAUL: That would be Lights. A throwback to how they were when they first came along, you know, NYC [from 2002's Turn on the Bright Lights] and songs like that. It’s got a good build. It takes time to build. Interpol are very strong on a sense of drama, a sense of almost a theatrical kind of drama and the tension and dynamics in the songs have always been well kind of balanced. And this is a good example of that. They’ve taken the riff [in Lights] from Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies and they’ve slowed it down, but I’ve no problem with that. I’m hearing the drama. I remember them doing Oxegen or Electric Picnic, I was there in a production capacity … An amazing gig, they were in a tent and the sense of drama on the stage was just very strong … I was watching on a little screen, the blue lights and everything. It was just very cool. That was 5 or 6 years ago, Antics-era. They’ve just always been very good at that … This track sort of trades off that, I think. It would be my pick.
    LAURENCE: Yeah, this huge big riff thing. The space that’s there, you think it has to be a fabulous drum beat that’s coming, and a really good bass riff. And on this one they sort of do deliver it. Then you can hear the backing vocals coming in, another little element, another little element, it’s getting deeper, it’s getting more intricate. And then when it lifts, it lifts.
    PAUL: It’s not the immediate…, it’s one of those ones when I first heard it I kinda went, hmmm, you know. But by the time I got to the end of it I went, this is good, this is what they do well. You know Spanish Sahara off that Foals album?
    LAURENCE: Yeah, big time.
    PAUL: It’s that kind of vibe, it just takes a long time to get… you get to go along for the ride, as it were, you’re with it.

    ***

    ALWAYS MALAISE?

    DARAGH: Speaking of lyrics, what do you guys reckon this album is actually about?
    THERESA: No idea. Until I saw these lyrics I didn’t know that’s what he was singing. Because he breaks them down even – here’s three words and then a pause and then three even though it’s a sentence – it just doesn’t come together. It didn’t come together for me. I wouldn’t have a clue what this album’s about.
    NIKE: Life!
    DARAGH: That narrows it down! Life in a good sense or a bad?
    NIKE: Bad.
    DARAGH: So he’s not a happy camper then?
    NIKE: No!
    LAURENCE: It’s a very bleak, very dark album. And you know we’re living in sort of very bleak times. So in that way it kind of chimes with what’s happening now. But at the same time it did sound a little bit dated to me. On Try It On, for example, where he comes in with a piano riff and it sounds just like Elbow three or four years ago. So I don’t mean dated in terms of 10 or 15 years ago, I mean in a slightly 5-years-ago sense.
    PAUL: Try It On is kind of the chirpy moment … it’s kinda chirpy-ish! [Laughter]. What’s the album about? I mean, Always Malaise, parentheses The Man I Am, that sets the tone really for what this album, if it is indeed about anything, is purportedly meant to make us think it’s about. Guys like Paul Banks, guys like Tom Smith from Editors, they’re always playing off a certain – particularly with the Editors guy now I have to say, I don’t buy into it at all. It’s a studied kind of angst, a kind of existential crisis – ‘Only I , Tom Smith, understand how ghastly the world has become…’ I don’t always buy into that. But Paul Banks, I get the impression, you’re a very successful and wealthy musician with a supermodel girlfriend, you’re not Ian Curtis. What’s it about? I think it’s about conveying the tense, nervous anxiety that is Interpol’s stock-in-trade. It chimes with the kind of music that they make. It fits with the sort of vocal that he does. There’s a certain sense of loss in some of the tracks, in some of the lyrics, that did stand out for me. There’s a kind of a theme of parting or loss of some kind. If that’s a genuine thing that’s happened in his life or… I don’t know, you don’t know unless you know the guy. And he doesn’t give press conferences. Sounds like loss in a relationship kind of way. A certain sense of an ending. And a lot of reviewers may read into that, ooh, is it the final Interpol album? It’s eponymous – odd for a band to self-title their fourth album. But… am I reading too much into it? But it is your job as a reviewer to read stuff into a record.
    LAURENCE: He has given a relatively upbeat interview to Lauren Murphy here at the paper. They were a band that was very hard to get interviews off and everything. Not quite Kraftwerk, but…  But now they seem a little bit more open. And I just wonder is it because the reviews of the album haven’t been very good?
    PAUL: Initially. With albums like this, if a consensus starts to emerge that, oh it’s a grower, initial reviews could be…
    DARAGH: Could this conceivably have a stellar reputation in two years’ time?
    PAUL: Well, don’t know about stellar but I’d be willing to wager that it’ll be seen as quite a good record. I would have thought so, yeah. In terms of how they’ve grown as a band, from when they first arrived and then took it to the next level, the next step up, Antics, the transition from the first album to Antics, and then with the third one something went a bit pear-shaped. I think it was meant to be the one that sort of pushed them over the top … But there was a sense it hadn’t quite come off the way they’d… Now they’re back on their own label, on the indie route, which probably suits them better. And this album does feel like something of a retreat to the textures and the feel of the first record to me. Without quite the brilliance of the first record, do you know what I mean? So as a fan I would rank it in third behind the first two.
    DARAGH: A partial recovery?
    PAUL: Better than the last one, yeah.

    ***

    CARLOS D.’S DEPARTURE

    LAURENCE: When you’ve got a bass player who was kind of seen as a frontman…
    PAUL: He was a real key visual element of the band as well as a sonic element. He looked great.
    THERESA: Maybe then they forced this out of him because…
    LAURENCE: I just wonder was he invested in it? His basslines are good and everything else… He avoids hitting the one all the time, which I love to hear. But they’re very good at that, they do do that much more in the rhythm section where you hear the guitar come in and you know the drum beat’s going to be … and they do make a conscious effort to avoid hitting stuff just on the beat. So usually your bass would come in on your one, two. And he doesn’t, he always comes in in the spaces in between. So it is again very studied, they do break it down, I know they break it down to that level of getting at exactly where the beats are and working around it … I’d say they take weeks and months to disassemble and reassemble. Nothing really lands exactly where you might expect it to land in a more straightforward record. But everything is slightly turned, slightly pushed differently. Which is great, and I really enjoy that sort of stuff.

    ***

    I WOULD MOST RECOMMEND THIS ALBUM TO…?

    THERESA: People trying to fit in. Somebody who would just love it because everybody else would love it because it’s supposed to be cool and more serious. People who are trying to act cool. People who want to get some kind of credibility from it.
    NIKE: People who don’t want to fit into the crowd, they just want to be like, oh yeah Interpol, they’re really good stuff. If you don’t know Interpol then you’re not a music buff or anything.
    LAURENCE: Probably people who want to be into something for the sake of its being difficult. Other Interpol fans, really. I don’t think they’re going to win any new fans with it. Existing Interpol fans will find enough there. I do quite like the album and it is growing on me…
    PAUL: Any male between 15 and 30 who feels no sense of ridiculousness at all for being seen on public transport reading Jean-Paul Sartre.

    • Jane says:

      Must say I can’t get into this album. Not a massive Interpol fun but have enjoyed their stuff in the past. Something not happening with this one. That said, maybe I need to give it another few spins. Interesting how it seems to have really grown on people here.
      Jane

    • David says:

      this is a neat idea but you’ve picked a crappy band and an even crappier album

    • Daragh Downes says:

      @Jane – Cheers. It’s funny, everyone but everyone seems to be distinctly underwhelmed by this album on first couple of listens. For some, it doesn’t get any better after that. For others, it seems to grow and grow. I’m hearing very little by way of middle ground from people I’ve spoken with.

      @David – Must admit I’m surprised at how much I’m liking the album myself.

    • Lauren says:

      Great read and great idea, Darragh! Not too sure about the comments at the end, though, particularly Nike and Theresa’s – ouch! I like the album and have been a fan since their first, but I couldn’t give a farmer’s fart about being cool or credible. I like them because I like the music that they make, simple as. It’s a bit unfair to make a sweeping generalisation along the lines of ‘If you like this album/band, you’re some sort of willful outsider or music snob’. I like Beyonce as much as the next person! ;)

      But suum cique, to each his own, as they say. Sorry, was that pretentious? ;)

    • fem/me says:

      @4 not pretentious at all…except it’s suum cuique…;-)

    • Daragh Downes says:

      Lauren – Thanks for the kind words:)

      “But suum cique, to each his own, as they say. Sorry, was that pretentious?”
      “not pretentious at all…except it’s suum cuique…;-)”

      Lauren & fem/me – Surely you’re both missing the point, which is that this album just doesn’t reduce to metasemiotic categories. Or am I being simplistic?;)

    • Mack says:

      Had almost given up on Interpol after the last album which I thought was complete muck (well, apart from No I in 3some). Have to agree with Paul McLoone on this one – it is one hell of a grower. The second half especially.

      Fair play Daragh for sharing so much of the discussion here. Very enjoyable read.

    • DonP says:

      Excellent idea.

      I think people are being a bit hard on Paul Banks’ voice. Isn’t it *meant* to be head-wrecking?? He’s not trying to be Brandon Flowers folks. The record itself is a depressing mofo, no two ways about it. But the more I listen the more I’m hearing good depressing.

    • Lauren says:

      Damn, can’t even get my snobbery right :D

    • Daragh Downes says:

      @Mack – Cheers, mate. Yep, that final suite of tracks leading into The Undoing is pretty moving alright.

      @DonP – I hear you. Laurence though was talking more about the way the voice is produced than the voice itself. But you may well be right – maximum listener alienation could be a deliberate strategy. Interpol on this record do sound to me like a band that has gone beyond the point of trying to impress or please people. Now that’s either a very dangerous place to be – or a very productive one. In the present instance, I reckon the latter.

      @Lauren – !!


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