"I'm a good guy," sings Paul Banks on the opener "Success" to Interpol's self-titled Matador effort. As the song -- and the rest of the album -- unravels, it turns into a statement of good intentions at its best and utter sarcasm at its worst. Later, Banks laments in splendid "Always Malaise (The Man I Am)," requesting release from his lover: "It pains me to say / And I'll do what I can / because that's the man I am."
There's a lot of that on "Interpol," a dark swirl of earnestness and outright hostility, between bars of the band's signature blend of oscillating, reverbed guitars, now-departed bassist Carlos D's heavy bars and those repeating four or five notes that Banks deadpans throughout.
Produced by rock master Alan Moulder, the 10-song set sounds solid and complete. It sets a mood, it continues a trend, but not much evolution. That's good news for fans. Expect the jagged pieces and the intermittent launch into dance-rock, like on "Summer Well." The choppy, synched vocals on "Barricade" recall the primitive rock riffs of "Turn Off the Bright Lights." First single "Lights," released months ago, is still one of Interpol's best tracks, as it’s an essence of the band's most recognizable sonic elements.
There's a few new tricks thrown into the usual mix. "Memory Serves" is the band showing its hand, by stripping to vocals and drums by the end, a glimmer of what would be without all the tech and effects. "Try It On" features a descending line played on a piano that sounds like it was copped from a high school choir room, plus a very well-placed shaker – the vocal line, however, doesn’t move much, rendering the song static. The next track "All the Ways" starts as a slow march to the end of the album, lumbering with a lackadaisical rhyming lines and Banks daring to bare that heart on his sleeve, collapsing into the repeating line to his romantic subject, "I know the way you'll make it up for me."
The finale, "The Undoing," is – predictably -- the relationship undone, like an ascent into heaven or descent into sleep. "Damaged" indeed, with those discordant transition notes to turn the stomach and the chant-singing murmuring through what sounds like the stages of grief. Then with the synth horns (really?) and organ, the chugging snap of the snare and a fade-out. It's a dreamy, Muse-like exit.
“Interpol” will do well for Matador, and sate the band’s fanbase, particularly as more eye-catching videos are released and as they hit the road with U2. They are a group whose influences are obvious and that fact will continue to annoy those who it annoys. But for those already on board, ride on.
Read our interview with Interpol here