There’s been talk, alot of talk, maybe too much talk, about Interpol lately. Okay, it’s entirely as much talk as to be expected when their forthcoming album revs up its publicity machine. And I hear they have a bevy of fans.
I also have a sneaky suspicion that their new album breaks from their usual modus operandi. Even if they faceplant, it’s a smooth move. The word ‘rut’ was coming to mind.
Interpol always felt like the musical equivalent of Chinese food to me, at least stereotypically: I wanted and enjoyed it, but was always hungry afterward. They sounded as if they’d digested some critical albums of the 80s, and some obvious, like U2’s first three albums, but I wasn’t sure if other parts of their atmospherics and crescendo-rife song writing stemmed from an unconscious osmosis, rather than a conscious understanding, of things like the Comsat Angels’ Sleep no More or The Sound’s Jeopardy or the Church’s Starfish (“A Time to be So Small”? lawsuit) or Kitchens of Distinction and Wolfgang Press (thanks P&C, for the reminder) or the Ocean Blue or even early Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen.
Those bands, among others, first built upon what Joy Division established. Any writer/critic lazily mentioning Joy Division as the primary shadow upon Interpol pretty much exposes ignorance of those bands; any writer saying that Interpol doesn’t do much more than those bands did, with Joy Division’s influences, is right on the money. Interpol might be top notch at what they do, but they haven’t made a better record than Sleep No More (maybe equal, if this was 1981). I think no one will. Sleep No More might be the high peak of the whole style/genre, whatever it is, although after any peak there’s only empty air to fall through. Comsat Angels tried a few more times, with slightly less, and then more than slightly less, good results.
Comsat Angels – Eye Dance
Comsat Angels –Be Brave
Comsat Angels — Sleep No More
But this, on the above tracks, was 1981. 1981. Can I text-signify any more annoyingly? Which makes Intepol a retro band, I think. It’s too close. It also reveals Interpol’s only real innovation – to take a dark sound and often brighten it with major-chord choruses and lyrics (albeit mostly obtuse) about how the “subway is a porno” (I’ll never quite forgive them for that drivel). Maybe therein lies why Interpol leaves me unfulfilled; what I love about the Comsat Angels (and Joy Division) is how appropriately little release exists in their dark sound and worlds, so that when that one pop song arrived, it killed forever ( a la “Love Will Tear Us Apart”). Over the course of an Interpol album, there’s no tension. Everything storms the heavens. It’s like sitting next to Jorie Graham on an airplane.
I will entertain the notion that I’m just pissed that neither Interpol nor Bloc Party mentions their debt to the Comsat Angels, or not that I’ve heard, in interviews. The Comsat Angels made little to no money, I’m guessing. Whatever happened to a zeitgeist-y band helping out their better elders by namedropping an album that the kiddies can then go get? REM did it with Mission of Burma, etc. C’mon now.
And check this out. I can hear Interpol covering this Big Country way-early b-side, it’s so backward-in-time-carbon-copy:
Big Country has to be Interpol’s secret, un-admitted influence. Sure, the vocal timbre is different, but the drumming and the songwriting and playing are so close. Christ, both bands liberally use e-bow. They have to know. Any drummer playing Interpol’s-type stuff should have to play the intro the BC’s title song before being considered a member.
(ps- Big Country’s worst decision was to name itself after it’s leadoff single, or vice versa, since they were much better than the 80s novelty they reduced themselves to by doing so; they had a sense of humor about it, and they could fucking play, having pretty much been the frikking Skids beforehand, and their rhythm section supported Pete Townshend on his early eighties solo albums, Kate Bush sat in a couple times, and yet they couldn’t shake the silly aura, and so when the inevitable musical decline came about, their was no surviving, and I have to think this sad moniker mistake eventually contributed, in some part, to Stuart Adamson’s suicide a few years ago.)
I could go on, as usual. Closing my eyes and pointing anywhere at most brit-indie bands circa 1980-83 and you hit a dead ringer for what Interpol has done, without much variation, since their inception (Christ, the Furs could sue on the basis of the first five second of “Mr. Jones” alone).
I wish them luck with the neu style, if my suspicions are true.