There is no way to tell Interpol’s story without it being tinged with tragedy. Though the word ‘tragedy’ might seem a touch melodramatic for a band who were stars fixed in the same firmament as The Strokes, in those auspicious days when New York was the epicentre of the rebirth of rock’n’roll, the truth is that that former glory only gave them only a greater height to fall. Their debut album ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ was seminal: its threadbare theatrics; expansive and atmospheric; at once uplifting and struggling against an overriding sense of melancholia, earned its reputation as one of the most affecting albums of its time. A golden age, if you like. For bands like Interpol, the ‘golden age’ is the hammer thumping the nail into your coffin. In the music press, we tell this story too many times: the once ‘great’ band clamouring for relevance and respect from a fanbase that only cares for the first two albums. ‘Marauder’, Interpol’s latest release, treads upon a different path to what you might expect. Their essence remains the same, but somehow, they have created an album bolder and broader than ever.
The conflict between insouciance and urgency that Interpol have mastered so well is illustrated by their opener ‘If You Really Love Nothing’. With Paul Banks’ airy vocals that seem to be submerged one moment and just breaking to the surface the next, wiry guitars and fluid drum beats, Interpol’s spirit is entirely present. What they appear to have shed, however, is that nocturnal detachment that gave their music an elusive, moth-like quality. They are certain of themselves; you get the sense that Interpol are at last aware of the fact that their sound is irreplicable. ‘Marauder’ is an album dripping in confidence. ‘Flight of Fancy’ is so commanding it will knock you for six: an instrumental that is so tight, so locked in, it draws you in and spins you into oblivion with its twinkling synth and rollicking guitarwork, it’s truly exciting. ‘Exciting’ would be the last word I’d expect to use, yet Interpol seem to truly deserve it. ‘Marauder’ is, in some ways, everything you’d want it to be.
Not neglecting their ostentation, we are met with ‘Interlude 1’. Coming forth and receding back into the ether, there’s something jarring about this minute-long divide that is splintering. ‘Mountain Child’ is on the other side, with its droning basslines that really accentuate Banks’ despondency and whirling crescendo. Interpol’s music works best with Banks’ vocals drowning beneath the guitar and drums’ tyranny. ‘Number 10’’s fuzzed-out guitar intro is astral, picking up and lagging in pace, before breaking out into delicious immediacy. It’s far braver, far more passionate, than anything Interpol have offered in the last decade.
Listening to ‘Marauder’ is in itself a form of time travel. We’re taken right back to the sexier, seedier and more sinister New York indie rock; where their shrugging lo-fi sound towered far higher than their sharp suits and skyscrapers. So much more than music, it was a carefully curated vibe. That distinctive sound, that particular attitude, has not been plundered – their sound has had the dust settle on it here when every other band of their milieu has been plundered. ‘Party’s Over’ is the embodiment of Banks’ lyrics taking a step back, where saying less is saying more. “Only got one night, one time, don’t say goodbye” is refrained; a tale of a chardonnay haze coming away at the seams, leaving you to face stark, unbearable reality. Their final track, ‘It Probably Matters’ is a title implying that Casablancas-carelessness of the time, of their youthful inertia. Rather than adding to that narrative, ‘It Probably Matters’ is Banks baulking at his younger self in his heyday. “I didn’t have the grace or the brains(…) I was pawning my days away” is at conflict with the truth of caring too much “How many hours I gave for this / How many hours of pain and bliss”. Banks’ lyricism is at its finest here, delivering something rousing in so simple a manner.
Rather than being confined, stifled and shackled by their past, Interpol have achieved a feat rarely seen: they have let it go. Through this, they have gained integrity among the wreck of disgraced musicians. What they have brought to us here is almost a miracle; there is faith now that the party doesn’t have to be over.
Image courtesy of Matador records.
Words by Sophie Walker.