Words About Music
Interpol “El Pintor”
The past few years have been tough for Interpol. Their fourth album was their worst yet, their beloved bassist left, and fans were worried that the band were pretty much done for, quality-wise. They had the misfortunate of peaking early with their excellent 2002 debut “Turn on the Bright Lights.” If you’ve not heard this album, I highly recommend you do so. It really is one of the best indie rock records of the 2000s. They also managed to craft a nearly-as-good sophomore album “Antics” in 2004. The next few years proved difficult, however. 2007’s “Our Love to Admire” and 2010’s “Interpol” were average-at-best. With the announcement of their fifth studio album “El Pintor” came considerable hype from music journalists. Before this album’s release, many were saying there was a high chance of this being the return-to-form comeback that Interpol needed. While “El Pintor” is much better than their last two records, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a return-to-form.
The sound Interpol became famous for on “Turn on the Bright Lights” is a tough one to replicate. Indie-rock-infused-post-punk-revival. There’s the killer bass riffs, tight drumming, and the powerful and instantly recognizable voice of Paul Banks. Twelve years later, though, the bass is lower in the mix, the drumming is less tight, and Banks’ voice is quite a bit less recognizable. His highly-enunciated baritone has heightened in pitch and lessened in distinguishability. But, that’s all okay. Interpol has aged, as people and bands are wont to do, and so the music has changed. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t quite want Interpol to sound exactly like they did in 2002. Unfortunately, I think Interpol wants to sound exactly like they did in 2002.
“El Pintor” is, first of all, a good album. If it had been marketed as just another good ol’ Interpol album, it probably would have been surprisingly good. In its current form, though, as Interpol’s “comeback record,” it’s just regularly good. There isn’t anything over-the-top excellent on here; not like I wanted it to be. I would’ve loved for an Interpol album that shows progression and ambition but is also qualitatively on par with their debut. Unfortunately, “El Pintor” is just a good record. There’s nothing spectacular here and that’s totally fine. Sure, there’s good songs on here. I enjoy “All the Rage Back Home,” “My Desire,” and “Breaker 1.” But when you consider tracks in Interpol’s repertoire like “PDA,” “Obstacle 1,” and “Stella Was a Driver and She Was Always Down,” nothing on “El Pintor” really sticks out.
I’m glad that Interpol is still around and that they continue to make music in the midst of tragedy. Their self-titled record was something of a tragedy. Carlos D leaving the band was a definite tragedy. “El Pintor” is a triumph considering the past half-decade of the band’s career, and although it’s not a perfect record, it’s definitely better than you could hope if your expectations were low. I hope Interpol continue to look up and look ahead. Who knows? Maybe one day they will release a record that’s on par with “Turn on the Bright Lights.”
SCORE – 6.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – All the Rage Back Home, My Desire, Everything is Wrong, Breaker 1, Ancient Ways, Twice as Hard