By Francesca Beltran
After four years of silence, New York’s brood rock prodigal sons Interpol broke their hiatus in July with the release of the new single, “All The Rage Back Home.” Accompanied by a cinematic black and white video, the compelling song served as the official introduction for the band’s fifth studio album, El Pintor, and all we can say is, welcome back.
The 2010 departure of Carlos Dengler, the band’s bassist and founding member, seems to have tightened the bonds of the remaining trio, allowing a confident exploration of their distinctive dark elements. Just as the album’s title results from an Interpol anagram (and means “the painter” in Spanish), the new record finds singer Paul Banks and company reorganizing old reliable, post-Joy Division moves to deliver a fresher (more cheerful even?) atmospheric post-punk plate.
Thusly, with “All The Rage Home,” El Pintor begins the record with mournful vocals that suddenly jump into a vigorous track of ruffled guitars, powerful drums and abstract lyrics addressing rage, love and falling. “My Desire” follows with synths surrounding Daniel Kessler’s guitar leads, and introduces Banks’ newfound taste for higher notes. Falsettos can now be heard throughout the record accompanying his array of idiosyncratic, moody baritones.
Yearning is apparent in “My Blue Supreme” and “Breaker 1,” but while the former serves as a gorgeous centerpiece that follows a brand new melodic formula for the band, led by Banks’ trembling crooning, the latter relies on Interpol’s quintessential gloomy abrasiveness. “Come back, come back, I’m the warning,” sings Banks in an almost threatening tone that once again secures his place in the music hall of murk. Everything Is Wrong in turn, touches back on some old patterns of bass-led intro, atmospheric sadness, anxious guitars and sturdy drums.
Self-produced in New York, the album has Banks now playing the role of both guitarist and bassist with surprising dexterity. The LP also features contributions from Secret Machines’ Brandon Curtis who plays keyboards in all songs but one tune, Tidal Wave, where Beck associate Roger Joseph Manning Jr. takes charge. Twice As Hard has Bon Iver’s Rob Moose on viola and violin, and sends the listener off with a mournful, very Interpol-y orchestral tone.
In short, El Pintor sounds like Interpol, turned slightly higher in mood and voice. And though it may not be the long-awaited one-up on their debut, Turn On The Bright Lights (2002), it does emulate their glory days, rising above the contentious results of the band’s more recent explorations. That is to say, Interpol devotees will be pleased to know that over a decade later the revitalized band still knows how to deliver the dark.
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