Ten years on from Interpol's seminal Turn on the Bright Lights, and two years since the departure of iconic - albeit divisive - bassist Carlos Dengler, it would seem that Paul Banks is finally coming to terms with his own identity. Seeing him use his own name for the first time (with previous solo efforts using the moniker Julian Plenti), Banks is a somewhat more relaxed affair by comparison to the cynical, bleak works of Interpol, but, as is his wont, he still manages to sound pretty cynical... and bleak.
A decade may have passed since his arrival as Interpol frontman, but Banks’s baritone gloom now seems timeless; a unique, detached lament that suited the industrial, metallic backing and nonchalant New York cool of Interpol perfectly. However, their absence here is not missed, although longtime collaborator Peter Katis’ co-production duties do tie Banks securely into the familiar.
Opener and lead single ‘The Base’ immediately shows both familiarity and progression. A more beat driven affair than the guitar led Interpol, Banks’ playing is rhythmic and percussive; simple, concise and functioning very much in conjunction with the drums, however, the feeling of coldness so prevalent in his previous incarnations remains in place. The chorus, however, sees him reflect on seeing "the truth above the lies"; possibly a knowing reference to his identity swapping and a surprisingly optimistic opening statement for this very personal record. Similar uncharacteristic calm and optimism seems also to prevail on ‘Arise, Awake’; a lilting, acoustic number that shows both departure from his previous projects and statement of intent for his new ones. The track seems to musically explore Banks’s past and future simultaneously; at once composed and tranquil, melancholic and morose, it captures indecision and the difficultly of change perfectly.
In some areas of the album, by contrast, it is very much business as usual. ‘Summertime is Coming’ and ‘I’ll Sue You’ are both particularly Interpol-like, and vary in their success. A pulsating, almost mechanical track, the former is certainly a highpoint, its similarity to earlier material and its placing as last track on the record also seems particularly significant; Banks very much seems to be holding stock in the future of Interpol. Elsewhere, on the petulant ‘I’ll Sue You’, Banks seems to have written a parody of his former band, with a bitter and ineffective chorus ( “I’ll sue you/ I’ll sue you/ I’m suing you” ) that seems to show open disregard for appropriate song topics; keep your legal disputes to yourself, Paul.
Overall, however, the album is a good one. It lacks cohesion, with eerie instrumentals featuring with gentle acoustic tracks, it is a noble attempt to progress a rather formulaic, albeit excellent, musical career. It seems apparent that Banks was the creative force, and, with a solo record as good as this one, it seems he no longer needs his old bandmates, sad as it seems. Carlos D’s departure two years ago certainly ended the first, classic era of Interpol, it is now up to Banks to decide whether to attempt a new one.
7Jon Clark's Score