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AnticsInterpol
Antics
Matador

The sophomore release has caused many hyped young bands to buckle under the weight of expectations. For those who surpass or equal their initial efforts, their poise, confidence and blind ambition shine like a beacon to up-and-comers striving to cement their status. Unlike fellow New York rock royalty the Strokes, who opted to safely repeat the template of Is This It, Interpol sheds the heavy atmosphere and Joy Division aspirations that characterized its debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, and instead delivers a record that builds upon its sound without drastically reworking it.

Opener "Last Exit" boldly ushers in this new aesthetic, riding on an organ and a slide guitar riff and sounding mildly like a '60s R&B number filtered through Echo & the Bunnymen — an effectively shocking stylistic departure from Bright Light's dim mood. The upbeat and punkish "Slow Hands," Antics' first single, slashes along with a tightened rhythm section. Carlos D's bass lines and Sam Fogarino's drumming were an essential part of Interpol's debut, but an essential background part. On Antics, however, instead of fading behind the chiming and intertwining guitars of Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler, they have been pushed to the front.

"Evil," "Narc," "Not Even Jail" and "Slow Hands" all swing as a result of this animated and highlighted rhythm section. In fact, "swing" might not be an adequate enough word to describe how well Interpol has incorporated the groove into its repertoire; "Not Even Jail" finds the band in full mirrorball mode, complete with 4/4 beat and ascending/descending guitar lines. "Evil" begins with a bass line reminiscent of some of the Pixies' best work, sounding vaguely like "Gigantic."

On "Take You on a Cruise," Banks emerges as one of the more compelling frontmen in recent history, rivaling Morrissey and Robert Smith for uncapped lovesick yearning. To complement Banks' newfound status as romantic troubadour, his vocal range has grown from a simple but effective menace to include actual emoting. And although his lyrics can run the gamut of the hilariously absurd ("Time is like a broken watch/ I make money like Fred Astaire") to the enigmatic and moving ("The pretense is not what restricts me/ It's the circles inside") to heart-on-the-sleeve romantic longing, ("Would you like to be my missus in a future with child?") all within the space of a single verse, his delivery and self-assurance belie any weaknesses in the often-clumsy choice of words. Witness the emotional and musical highpoint of "Take You on a Cruise," in which Banks backs his lyric, "I am a scavenger between the sheets of union," with true feeling and impassioned singing, cracking the icy veneer and detachment that defined his vocals on Bright Lights.

"Public Pervert" and closer "A Time to Be so Small" are much closer in spirit to Bright Lights, which seems to be Antics' only flaw. An uneven choice of songs ends the record on a downcast note, betraying the lighter tone that predominates. As for the songs themselves, they serve as a reminder of how far Interpol has grown since its 2002 debut. On Antics, Interpol is less indebted to its influences, creating a distinct sound from the distinguishing characteristics that drew those comparisons in the first place. Fans eager for the taste of the familiar will no doubt find Antics satisfying. Particularly on "A Time to Be so Small," Interpol is in full gloom-and-doom effect; Banks' vocals are slow, less animated and buried under distortion, the band follows in lock-step with Kessler's neon-bright guitar notes dotting the gray landscape.

Images of ships, the open ocean, navigation, starry nights and lost lovers abound on Antics. The subject of love and its complications — the highs, the lows and everything in-between — have been covered before, but Antics refreshes such tired stories. Despite seeming destined to be pigeonholed as the second coming of Joy Division or the Cure or any other post-punk sulker, Interpol has moved past these soundalike predecessors into a space of its own.

Bobby Mann (mannhb at hotmail dot com)

RELATED LINKS

Allmusic Guide entry
Official website
Flak review of Turn on the Bright Lights

ALSO BY ...

Also by Bobby Mann:
Sparta | Porcelain

 
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