One of the first things we heard Paul Banks sing - on Interpol’s gloriously gloomy debut "Turn On The Bright Lights" - was the line “I will surprise you sometime…” Two years later, the surprise factor inherent in these 21st century New Yorkers sounding like certain wintry Mancunians of wondrous repute has diminished.
Still and all, it may be the only diminution worth quibbling about. The only real hurdle to get over is the same one that "Turn On…" presented: will those who loved Joy Division forgive the, if you will, pastiche? On the evidence, plenty of people did last time around, albeit with a teeny smidgen of guilt. And, given the option, who wouldn’t want another (all-new) record full of tension and despair, bleak monochrome anguish and thrilling interplay between inert claustrophobia and windswept grandeur? Come to that, who wouldn’t – if one were in a band and could muster the necessary tension, despair, anguish, grandeur and suit suitable for brooding – want to whip up such a record? Or, given the reason for this review, two? Beats bowling. Or Bowling For Soup.
Admirably, and happily for potential sales to the gloomy, the amusingly-titled and richly-textured "Antics" sees Interpol resisting the urge to claim that the post-punk-Manchester + incessant existential rain was a shameful collective hallucination by delivering a disco record instead. This time, however, in a treasure-trove of lusciously low-slung basslines, poignant piano, ferociously single-minded martial drums and only a few makeweight tracks ("NARC", "Length Of Love"), there are places where the swooning self-absorption and headily bittersweet pronouncements suggest The Smiths as much as Joy Division. The magnificent weariness of "Next Exit" is one such moment; breathtakingly soaraway standout "Evil" – in which Banks sounds as much like Michael Stipe as Ian Curtis – touches the hem of the banner-fluttering bravado of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out".
Overall, it’s a suppler record than its older brother, largely avoiding the skittish tempos of "Turn On…" tracks like "Roland" in favour of elegant curves and harmonies ("Take You On A Cruise"), though the road-honed likes of "Slow Hands" and "Not Even Jail" still hit bruisingly hard. Better still, the guitars manage to stick to an era-identifiable palette while never sounding short of ideas. These aren’t pop tunes, of course, though there are echoes brightening the epic landscape ("Public Pervert", "C’mere") that could be marshalled in any argument you might care to have that Interpol aren’t all gloom-and-doom.
Though the point is, surely, and as certain other bands proved some while back, there’s nothing more thrilling (and cheering) than a really magnificently crafted slice of gloom. There’s certainly no one currently doing it better.