Interpol was the post-punk revival of the early 2000's. Never before or after has a singer so perfectly captured the educated, confused angst of the urban punk like Paul Banks.
Hedonistic, articulate, asburd, and painfully specific, their 2002 album Turn on the Bright Lights offered the kind of rock n' roll you can't argue with, featuring melodramatic lyrics that would fold in on themselves if they weren't so brilliantly and cheekily self-aware. In the way that acts like Joy Division were manufactured, Interpol was organic, and fans responded to it, clinging to the band like a life raft in the roiling ocean of early 2000's indie music.
Flash forward two decades and fans are left with a pale imitation. While the band's dogged commitment to their sound is admirable, it produces albums that sound like cheap copies. For example, their most recent release,
Marauder, is trying desperately to replicate the intuitive fire of earlier albums. But the problem with aiming to recapture the feeling of early 2000's sex and drug culture is that the gutter punks now wear ties to work and read John Grisham after tucking in their toddlers. Interpol is trying to evoke something electric and fleeting that no longer exists.
It's possible that conflict within the group—they famously co-write all their songs—is to blame for the lack of creative experimentation. After all, when Carlos Dengler left, the band just continued on without a bassist, inevitably stunting their sound. But Interpol's problem feels less like an inability to change and more like an unwillingness. Until now.
Finally, fans can see a glimmer of progress. The band's newest single, "Fine Mess," is one of the freshest pieces they've released in a long time. It's still inviting the listener into a musty New York loft party full of safety pin piercings, cheap cocaine, and flip phones, but maybe it's finally acknowledging that that party's just not quite what it used to be. The song effectively harps on a classic Interpol theme: the glory of unhealthy romance with a more modern feel, saying,
"Cause you and me make a fine mess
You and me make a fine mess
You get high like you chased the natives
And you tried then to show them your come-and-see face
Like this elevation
The mood's right, the dim light, we can see them
Deep breath, deep breath, keep grabbing"
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