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Take You On A Cruise

Flying through the first few songs of ‘Antics’, swooping under the huge, gleaming choruses, you’re struck by the muscularity of Interpol’s music. It’s brutal, almost mechanical, and supremely confident. Forgoing the reverb and shimmer of ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, the band have built a huge metallic precision machine.

‘Antics’ is a record inspired by, written and bloodily-birthed on the hot tarmac that flows smoothly beneath a rock band’s tour bus. Whereas ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ was bloated with the ambling musical luxuries of an unsigned band in their basement, ‘Antics’ has a lean and urgent physique that can only be produced by merciless schedules and the detached grind of touring. It’s honed Interpol - you can imagine them cutting short soundchecks to pin down the finer points of stormers like ‘Evil’, ‘C’mere’ and lead-off single ‘Slow Hands’. They no longer rely on dense production and atmospherics, because they don’t need to: ‘Antics’ is bare-boned and beautiful.

Paul Banks tends to bark the lyrics like orders at a drill march, giving into tender tones only when it’s absolutely necessary. With the vocals placed high in the mix, it’s a dangerous game, especially if you have a tendency to throw clangers like spanners at your audience: "You make me wanna pick up a guitar/and celebrate the myriad ways that I love you", and the frankly horrendous, "Time is like a broken watch/I make money like Fred Astaire." This gripe aside, Paul Banks has concentrated on using his lyrics to create a haven for himself in the eye of the storm of popularity. Far removed from any rock lifestyle cliché, this album is an almost exclusive dialogue between him and an unseen and oft unrequited love. At times the object of his desire is achingly out of reach ("The trouble is that you're in love with someone else/It should be me." on ‘C’mere’). At others all is hunky-dory and he’s planning their retirement. (“Would like to be my Missus?/And a future with child?” he asks, on the gorgeous ‘Take You On A Cruise’.)

Despite the many gothic red herrings - the suicide motifs of ‘Slow Hands’ and ‘A Time To Be So Small’ - the real beauty of Antics is actually to be found in the ultimately banal, human details of love, relationships and companionship. That these subjects are so violently juxtaposed with the mechanical precision of the music just makes it even better. It’s this conflict between human/inhuman, man/machine, love/hate, sex/death, that both reinforces Interpol’s unique vision and makes ‘Antics’ such a difficult, yet rewarding listen.

Merek Cooper

reviewed on 25 Sep 2004

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