Interpol | Antics (Matador)

Banks offers more private notebook poetry of troubled relationships, with occasionally baffling lines (“Make money like Fred Astaire,” he instructs on “Take You on a Cruise”). Banks would do well to abandon rhymes or at least stop ending lines with “else” and “self.

 

Charcoal wardrobes and comparisons to ’80s goth bands aside, Interpol is a reasonably content band. Wouldn’t you be happy if your first album became successful and your favorite band handpicked you to join them on tour? Despite countless Joy Division references, nobody in Interpol seems destined to hang himself with his Armani belt. Clearing some of the monotonous gloom from Interpol’s music at this point in their career is only natural and welcome.

Because, fortunately, monotonous gloom was not the best feature of Turn on Your Bright Lights. Was there anyone whose favorite song was “Hands Away?” Or was that the song you sat out while preparing for Ian Curtis-esque robot dancing to “Obstacle 2”? On Antics, some of the brooding, atmospheric drones have been traded for tighter melodies and sharper hooks, even (heavens!) major keys. Banks’ vocals have been airlifted out of the mix and out of his lower register. Tempo remains more consistent from song to song. Yet the major components of Interpol remain: Daniel Kessler’s pet guitar effects, Carlos D.’s syncopated basslines, Sam Fogarino’s clean snare-tapping, and Paul Banks’ homage to the greatest singer the ’80s never knew. The changes seem organic, as if the music evolved on its own, without forcing faddish elements. No cheesy electroclash beats show up. Thank God.

“No Exit” opens the album with a warm organ and a tambourine highlighting a rhythm that could belong in an old Ronnie Spector song. That voice, however, could not. A simple bassline and a tentatively uttered “Rosemary” launches “Evil.” Major key or not, “Evil” imparts a sense of alienation. Banks punctuates its fast, garrulous nature with an isolated vocal, asking, “But, hey, who’s on trial?”

A slower number, “Take You on a Cruise” eloquently floats headlong into its explosive, layered chorus, but shifts directions perhaps too many times before its end. All is forgiven by the misleadingly named “Slow Hands.” If you’ve already downloaded this mp3, you know it’s great for dancing. There’s even a brief, organ-filled lull where you can do fancy, new romantic handwork before you resume bouncing around. Is there a dance club on Washington Avenue that plays songs like this? There should be.

Retaining the soundtrack-like appeal of the first album, “Not Even Jail” finds its emotional center in the conflicted, rising progressions leading to the title line, and ends with a strangely joyful instrumental fadeout. “Public Pervert” starts deceptively with slow metronomic swaying, but don’t trust your CD player’s ten-second preview feature (why do those exist, anyhow?). “Length of Love” is another entreaty to hit a dance floor, guiding the listener along a sinuous bassline that, if it’s not insulting to say so, recalls the best basswork of Duran Duran’s John Taylor.

Banks offers more private notebook poetry of troubled relationships, with occasionally baffling lines (“Make money like Fred Astaire,” he instructs on “Take You on a Cruise”). Banks would do well to abandon rhymes or at least stop ending lines with “else” and “self.” The chorus of “Narc” repeats the word “love” to laughable excess, but no matter. Legions will still borrow lines for their Livejournal entries. It’s not like you listen to Interpol just for the words, anyhow.

Unfortunately, the closer, “A Time to Be so Small,” risks monotony, particularly compared with the other songs It is also notably far less dark than the ominous “Leif Erikson” that concluded Bright Lights, but such a song would’ve been out of place on Antics. While it may not be an instant favorite, the song satisfactorily bookends “No Exit” and complements the overall sense of lessening despair evident on this album. And less despair is good. If Bush wins re-election, though, maybe the next album will get really sad again.

But this isn’t “the happy Interpol album.” Comparative adjectives are probably best to use. Antics doesn’t suggest the words “poppy” and “upbeat” as a stand alone work in the context of most pop music, but compared to its predecessor, this album is poppier, faster, and generally more upbeat. But it properly resides in the home of Interpol’s sound. You could still mope through this album. Or you could dance to it. You decide.

 

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