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Interpol’s new album feels both new and classic

The phrase “classic Interpol” came up while a friend of mine showed me the first track from the band’s new album “El Pintor” last week. This interested me on a few levels. First, Interpol’s debut “Turn on the Bright Lights,” released in 2002 needed virtually no incubation period to become a classic. Second, the band balances between forward motion and resting on their laurels on nearly all of their subsequent records, making the word “classic” a bit misleading.

The band’s constants arrive on “El Pintor” en masse. Paul Banks’ incredibly unique vocal delivery, the shimmering post-punk guitar licks that recall early New Order and the syncopated drum lines that made “Antics” the follow up the debut deserved. The only reason I shy away from using “classic” as a description for “El Pintor” would be that the band has improved on all of these elements and learned from their mistakes, most notably shown on Interpol’s 2010 self-titled album.

The band made good use of the past four years, with Paul Banks releasing solo material and a hip-hop mixtape we still try to pretend never happened. The solo material no doubt led to his refined sound on “El Pintor.” “I keep falling / maybe half the time / maybe half the time,” Banks croons with his half apathetic/half desperate vocal combination over the expansive chorus of “All the Rage Back Home.” Daniel Kessler’s guitar work shines better than ever here, showcasing a screaming, tremolo picked lead riff.

Arguably, the band reuses certain sonic elements throughout the album, notably the similarities in tone with “My Desire” and “Same Town, New Story,” which some would attribute to musical laziness. However, it is difficult to see this as a point of contention when the albums replayability factor is so high anyways. “El Pintor” feels like the same Interpol we have always loved without feeling like a rehash of what made them great to begin with. Either way, it is good to be home.


 

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