Monday, September 13, 2010

Interpol (2010)




So Interpol came to my attention when they were already three albums in to their game and had gone from playfully melodramatic New York grit to pseudogoth pure pop style, the latter goofoff motif peaking with a mournful dirge about trying to get a girlfriend to agree to have a three-way, which to the best of my knowledge they always performed with the straightest of faces, as if their proposition had some ironic gist and artistic importance lost on all others.

Nobody liked Our Love to Admire. I can honestly say it was never terribly offensive to me on the whole because I heard all three albums for the first time nearly simultaneously; the shock of a downward spiral missed me since I wasn't even familiar enough with Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics yet to define what was interesting about them. But now, several apologies about Admire later (and a corresponding nosedive back to indiedom after that album's ill-fated Capitol deal), geez, fuck it. They're already on some kind of blurrily inconsequential carousel ride, self-repeating and perpetual.

I'm not big on extreme reactions and I'm not knocked down to the gutter by how boring I find this record, not least because part of me expected it to be a bit worse than it actually is. The other part retained cautious optimism, especially after the single "Barricade" was a reasonably fun, silly, catchy jam. That's one of the big problems: these privileged souls don't seem to have any serious complaints about anything, they just have the favored sound of The Mope. Witness the other song that advanced the LP, the labored gloom piece "Lights," accompanied by a nonsensical science fiction video. (It figures these guys would be all about Blade Runner.) It feels built on trends, like something you'd hear at a Hot Topic? Or maybe that's unfair. Either way, "Barricade" is an exception -- stupid rock stuff that inserts some levity and doesn't feel wholly strained.

The other issue is that the songs all sound the fucking same. Atmospheric rock doesn't have to be like this: I would have to think for a good long while to name all the songs on the National's new album, but I know them instantly when they come on. Interpol's always been about the vague along with the theatrical, but that used to be a major advantage; I took Bright Lights along for a long drive not long ago and verified this. I remembered all of the songs and still found they piqued my curiosity and evoked, signified, suggested something. The emptiness that persists now, well, that's incredible. Where initial peers like the Walkmen have progressed and discovered new ideas, new noises, Interpol, for all their popularity, is left coughing in the dust. It's a relief when a song like "Try It On" initially sounds like something different, a new experiment, a playful approach, but after a bit it devolves into the same old brooding, same-y nonsense.

After two listens, I can make out "Barricade" and "Try It On" as distinct songs, and track number one, "Success," comes close and is a decent cut I might actually decide I like if I hear it a few more times. The rest is sludge. People on the Net (including but not limited to the people at Matador; shocking!) are being cautiously optimistic about this record as a step in the right direction or a return to form or a return to non-shit. Though I find it hard to dispute that -- nothing here is remotely as bad as "No I in Threesome" -- I have a sneaking suspicion these boys are spent.

"Boys." Hmm. You know, speaking strictly in musical rather than behavioral terms, a lot of my favorite bands consist of men: the National, or the Kinks, or R.E.M., or the Clash, or Wire, or Radiohead; they might be immature buttholes for all I know or care but they sure as fuck sound like grownups who make grownup music for other grownups, right? But that's one faction of popular music. I don't have to remind you that some boys we love as boys. The Rolling Stones, always boys. The Replacements. MGMT (so far). The Flamin' Groovies. The Animals. Could keep going. But all of them at their peaks live(d) in the world, not in themselves. Even MGMT are stalwart believers in populist fun. Interpol's two latest albums are boy music with gratingly high-minded, insincere trappings; it feels like it's made less to identify with than to stare at, but for all that dust cloud, one feels duped. They seem to want to inspire the kind of awe and worship Radiohead does, only without taking any of the drastic evolutionary and experimental steps that justify the treatment awarded the older band. I can't figure out the motivation if it's not money, and that's none of my business, so speculation's where it has to end except that the result is not talking to me.

And also "Memory Serves" sounds like fucking Ozzy Osbourne. Gahhh.

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