El Pintor

Does the world need another Interpol album? I ask because El Pintor is best described as “another Interpol album.” This is objectively true in the sense that it is an album, and it is by Interpol, and there were others before it. It also feels subjectively true because El Pintor’s predecessors were already becoming difficult to distinguish around the time of their last “comeback album” in 2010, and this new one is not making that process any easier. These 10 tracks seem less like a standalone document than the continuation of an infinite playlist — 40 more minutes of all-black everything, from the closet full of sleek tailored suits to the stack of brooding post-punk and new wave records on the coffee table. Interpol ages, but they do not evolve.

That’s not necessarily a problem. An unmistakable aesthetic can be one of the best weapons in a band’s arsenal, and Interpol had theirs from the jump: legendarily angular (always angular) guitars, creeping not-so-secret-weapon bass lines, Paul Banks spinning puzzling couplets in his commanding nasal bleat, Sam Fogarino finding creative ways to hold it all together in crisp lockstep. It’s a good aesthetic. It gets the job done. When matched with songs as masterful as the ones that front-loaded Turn On The Bright Lights, it does far more than that. And although El Pintor doesn’t reach those heights, the songs here are stronger than any since Antics.

Interpol have always been a joke to some people, be it for fearlessly pilfering their influences, carrying themselves with such stylized self-seriousness, Banks’ nonsensical attempts at poetic resonance, Carlos D’s haircut, whatever. To those people, this was nothing more than cocaine kiddie goth, an old sound repackaged as a sleek yet insubstantial modern product. But that shit doesn’t matter when you’re bobbing your head to the staccato jabs in the “Obstacle 1″ chorus or losing yourself in the sweeping guitar maelstrom that closes out “PDA.” Whatever role industry machinations and scene politics played in Interpol’s rapid rise, they got famous at least in part because they were awesome. I remember seeing them in a smoke-filled Cleveland bar a couple weeks after Turn On The Bright Lights came out and being dumbstruck by the way the various components locked into a machinelike groove and built to a dramatic swell. I was new to this music, but it already felt classic to me. Former Stereogum writer Corban Goble expertly explained the appeal of Turn On The Bright Lights on its 10th anniversary: “The album itself is, to this day, an awesomely well-worn brick of incisive guitar rock, an assured, confident, risk-taking debut that the band hasn’t lived up to since.”

Here’s the thing, though: Even Turn On The Bright Lights turns into kind of a slog by the end. The quality of the songs doesn’t dip that much, but their cumulative effect slowly shifts from blissful reverie to bleary resignation. And that’s what happens on a great Interpol album! Their lesser works, then, have all been gloomy clouds that drift in and out of my consciousness without lightning striking twice. Each one has its moments, but whereas the majority of Turn On The Bright Lights picked me up and carried me away, the rest of Interpol’s discography prods me along as if I’m on a chain gang. Even Antics, held up by Interpol’s fan base as a worthy sophomore effort on par with the Strokes’ Room On Fire, just… isn’t. From then on, the graceful touch that once pulled back against Banks’ heavy-handed lyrics and vocals has eluded them, as if his labored mannerisms have infected the music and can’t be flushed out. Thus, everything since then has been a study in shtick spread too thick — or is that stretched too thin?

Like 2010′s Interpol and 2007′s Our Love To Admire before it, El Pintor continues this trend, though this one comes the closest to shaking off the doldrums. The uptempo “All The Rage Back Home” kicks things off with beautiful building intensity. That’s followed by “My Desire,” which — from its opening trills to the delay-inflected leads that zipline against ominous keyboard drones — boasts more great guitar parts than some rock bands manage in an entire album. “Anywhere” is similarly successful at spinning a few strong riffs into a lively full-bodied rock song. Three for three, then! “Same Town, New Story” and “My Blue Supreme” descend into slower, moodier territory while still maintaining some degree of vigor. The next two songs, “Everything Is Wrong” and “Breaker 1,” are pummeling despite their midrange tempo. Then it’s on to “Ancient Ways,” the album’s shortest, hardest-hitting song. It’s a sweeping piece of work, and although the appropriately titled “Tidal Wave” can’t match its power and immediacy, it keeps up that sense of something humongous washing over you. The album ends with the lumbering yet dramatic “Twice As Hard” — not the grandest of finales, but a workable conclusion to a solid batch of songs.

See? When you examine the songs individually, there’s not a stinker in the bunch. And in a highly unusual turn for Interpol, the most memorable lyric — “Oh, fuck the ancient ways!” — is memorable for being good, not laughably confusing. So why can’t I recommend El Pintor for anyone besides hardcore Interpol fans in need of a fix? For all its respectable songwriting and musicianship, the album casts no spell. Despite a number of inspired moments, it adds up to less than an inspired record, one that bleeds into the blackness along with the rest. How can music that teeters on the brink of excellence feel so much like punishment? As with everything else Interpol have released since their debut, El Pintor is the epitome of good-not-great — a three-star blockbuster, an undistinguished chain restaurant, a sensible (black) sedan that you paid too much for. I don’t mind it, but I can’t imagine actively seeking it out. It’s just “another Interpol album,” and while it could have turned out much worse, it does nothing to change the perception that Bright Lights was a flash in the pan.

El Pintor is out 9/9 on Matador. Stream it here.

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Comments (143)
  1. I feel like this one the way I did about the Strokes’ Comedown Machine last year. Even if it’s not an embarrassment, there’s just no way for them to be hot like they were hot a decade ago.

    • I think what really separates Interpol and the Strokes is that Interpol care a lot more for their craft–or at least it appears that way. It seemed like the Strokes made more albums because they had to, especially considering the short turn-around between Angles and Comedown Machine. On the hand, Interpol have managed to rethink their dynamic as a band after losing a member and have taken the time to finesse their way out of their proto-orchestral funk from their self-titled album.

      • Not a massive fan of Angles or Comedown Machine but not really sure The Strokes HAVE to make more albums, considering how well off they all were to start with.

      • Comedown Machine is a great album and much, much better than Angles. Still has a bunch of catchy hooks, its concise and doesn’t over stay its welcome.

        Haven’t listened to El Pintor yet, but I can’t say I’m too excited after their performance at Gov Ball. Ironically, the time I caught them on their self-titled tour was way better.

        • Having seen them twice, and hearing others reviews, it seems like Interpol can be kind of hit and miss with their live performances. which is strange.

          • This album seems technically “better” than Comedown Machine — it’s certainly more focused — but I enjoyed Comedown Machine a lot more.

          • Saw them in their opening show of this tour and they were super tight and very good. Not revolutionary or anything, but a solid concert.

        • I saw Interpol a month ago and they were all smiles, played the hits and they sounded great.

          • I think that was my biggest problem with their show. I love the first two albums, but having the majority of the set based on those two albums seemed way too safe and boring. I know plenty will disagree, but I would have liked a more comprehensive set even if that meant dropping some of the “classics”.

    • Doesn’t this happen with many bands? I’m not sure I want them to be “hot” anyways…

  2. Of course it’s not TOTBL or Antics. But this is a really, really good album. I’ve probably rolled through it a dozen times now and it’s more “Interpol” than Interpol has sounded in years.

    Kudos

  3. this gives me some excitement though i wholeheartedly disagree that TOTBL slogs towards the end. what about The New slogs? Leif Erikson is one of the most beautiful songs in their catalogue. And Antics barely a worthy sophomore effort?! that album is perfect cover to cover; sure you’re not confusing it with OLTA?

    • Agree, I feel like the latter half of TOBL has the kind of songs that reward repeated listens.

    • My thoughts exactly: How can the back end of an album be a slog when it contains “Leif Erikson”? Am I the only person that actually really likes OLTA?

    • Yeah I felt like he was conveniently forgetting about Antics when talking about their catalogue as a whole, and then was surprised when he kind of dismissed it when he felt he had to mention it.

    • and Leif Erikson is still one of my favorite tracks overall.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. The New and Leif Erikson are two of the best songs from TOTBL and Interpol as a band, the first being a sonic assault that only winds down with the second. After Antics and OLTA, I kept them on the side while keeping them at the corner of my eye, and I’m pleasantly surprised they’re somewhat back to what I love so much about them.

    • Turn on the Bright Lights is one of the top 50 albums of this young century. None of the rest of Interpol’s albums even come close. TOTBL doesn’t do anything except get better and better at the end. That being said, I can forgive anyone who passes Interpol off as a one-album band. Unless you are one of those/these folks who just love the band, they really haven’t lived up to the promise.

      But that is no reason to add snarky criticism where it doesn’t belong.

  4. Even though I want to slag this review for not commending El Pintor for being a welcome return to form, I very much agree with the conclusion. Then again, I don’t think anyone was thinking of ever getting an album experience like that found on Turn On The Bright Lights. Even Antics, which is song-for-song a better album than their debut, sounds more like a singles compilation than anything else. With that in mind, I think El Pintor ultimately succeeds. As their last effort showed us, these guys can’t really recreate and pine the same atmosphere found on their debut. I think they now have acknowledged that and have managed to do what they are damn good at–creating an album with killer tracks that stand as good (or even better) on their own as they do in the context of an LP. These guys have gotten back to writing good songs, and that in itself is something to be lauded.

  5. I wonder how this would be viewed were it their first album.

    • what would you say if it was?

    • sd  |   Posted on Aug 28th +1

      Looking at the comments it appears the only people commenting are Interpol fanboys. Look, I like Interpol and their first two albums were great, but they haven’t really adapted any since then. They’re very much like The Strokes in that regard—a “hot” band that just has fizzled out due to changing times and an inability to find the magic again. A good contrast would be Spoon, who really have never been a “hot” band but have always put out great albums while still sounding more or less the same. They obviously tweak the formula but at the end of the day Spoon sound like Spoon. At this point Interpol’s time is just done.

  6. Chris,

    Pretty brutal review. I do agree with you that the magic of TOLBL isn’t there. I also agree that there isn’t a stinker in the bunch. I would offer up this for consideration……if this was a brand new band you had never heard before would your final summation of this album be so dismissive? I can honestly say if I had never heard of this band before I would be the biggest fanboy out there for these guys.

    TOTBL casts shadows too deep and too dark for these guys to ever come out of. And maybe it’s time to quit judging them against their masterpiece and listen to new work without jaundiced ears.

    On a side note….I will defend this band to my grave. So take my above with a grain of salt.

    • Interpol is in the same position as so many other bands with previously high-regarded albums. Their newer stuff will always be compared to their older stuff and pale in comparison to it, so it will get a lower score or harsher review than it deserves, whereas if it was music by a brand new band it would be praised to the high heavens. Spoon, Okkervil River, etc. all in the same boat sadly.

      • Really? Seems like Spoon are enjoying a lot of critical praise for their latest album.

        • yeah, I would say that Spoon have been getting increasingly good, or at least consistently good reviews, kinda like The National.

          • The National might be the one consistently great band that has (so far) avoided its latest offering being compared to its older stuff unfavorably. Maybe that’s because their first two albums were good but not great, then they hit their high point and haven’t come down yet.

        • Yeah, the newest one kind of is, although a lot of reviews still seemed to hold back just because it’s not at the level of their greatest greats way back in the early 2000′s. And moreover, to the Transference reviews and retro-reviews (Transference was also mentioned in EVERY They Want My Soul review) saying it was a misstep for Spoon, a low point, a black mark on their hot streak, etc. Uh, no, Transference was great music. But they love to compare to older work as if that’s the only thing that matters… I don’t feel that way though.

  7. One paragraph in, and I’m already disliking this review. First of all, I always hate the question “Does the world need another…?” No, it doesn’t, it doesn’t need anybody to make an album. Kind of my same issue with people calling bands ‘irrelevant’. Irrelevant to whom exactly? Anyway, I’ll read the rest of the article now…

    • That line of thinking feels of a piece with the “but this album sounds like their other albums so why do we need it?” style of criticism which always reminds me of this quote by Alex Scally (of Beach House) in an interview with Pitchfork:

      “Writing about us, people have said: “Do we need another album by this band?” What the fuck is that? That only matters if you’re just listening to sound. Did anyone ever say, “Do we need another album from the Beatles?” It’s this pathetic era we’re in where people are like, “I’m done with them, I need a new sound; I’m a baby, I need something every five minutes.” A lot of people listening to music now don’t listen to the songs or lyrics at all. They just go, “Good tones…” and that’s it. But we’re obsessed with songs. Sometimes, I feel like people aren’t listening to our songs, they’re just listening to the sound.”

      I mean, I think in some cases it’s a legit criticism, but I dunno, it’s always the least interesting to me. It’s a divergent line of thinking that eventually takes criticisms to a destinations I eventually can’t even understand–like labeling songs such as “Leif Erikson” a slog because of how the overall sound of the album is–so in a lot of cases it just leads to agreeing to disagree. Bands do need to grow and evolve. But I’d argue Interpol has actually changed and evolved its sound over the years, more often along the fringes than forefront, even while the central aesthetic of the sound has remained the same. Where this review ultimately seems to arrive though is at an argument of “difference for the sake of difference,” and I suppose I just find myself disagreeing with that at a very fundamental level.

      It’s interesting to me that this has become a really prevalent desire in music when other mediums often find artists–whether in film, theater, literature, painting, architecture, etc–honing particular styles, tones, themes, and forms over an entire career and not just in one-shots. A new sound isn’t always indicative of growth and vice versa. (I realize I’ve run way off on a tangent here, and El Pintor isn’t certainly a masterpiece to be making this point around. It’s just been on my own mind a lot lately.)

      • that last sentence should be “certainly isn’t” and there’s probably like 500 other typos/grammatical mistakes in there and i should just go back to work

      • All good points. I think The Walkmen are another good example of this. Although their sound now (I won’t acknowledge their hiatus) differs a lot from their debut, their last few albums have sounded increasingly similar, but I’ve seen it as a band who has really honed their sound and perfected their craft. Sure, they could mix things up a bit, but why is that necessary when they’ve gotten so good at what they do?

      • I think it’s interesting that some artists fall prey much quicker to the “Do we really need another ______ album?” dilemma quicker than others, and I’ve always wondered why that is. I loved Interpol’s first two albums, and I still listen to them semi-occasionally, but I can’t muster up any real desire to listen to this album, just as I couldn’t bring myself to listen to their self-titled. And it’s for that very reason – I know what Interpol sounds like, and I don’t really feel like I need more Interpol.

        On the other hand, I feel like there’s artists, specifically those in certain genres, who get to keep putting out albums in similar veins without losing much goodwill. Like, off the top of my head, Neko Case, or Jeff Tweedy. Both have tinkered with their sound (especially in Tweedy’s case) but I feel like their genres/forms are so ingrained in popular music that when they come out with new stuff, they get a pass on “is this music still fresh?,” critics jump ahead to the “How’s the songwriting/performance?” questions.

        I feel like Interpol’s lack of good standing reflects that while a lot of people dug Interpol when they first came out, their aesthetic is something that maybe a lot of initial fans took as something fun to dress up in, but not something you’d want to commit to long term.

        • Hmm that’s interesting. Your last sentence sums it up pretty nicely. There’s some of us though that are in it for the long haul. In fact when I first heard Interpol my thoughts were ‘Finally! this is the band I’ve been waiting for, for the past ten years.’

          • I get that and I respect that. I’m pumped for the new Ryan Adams album, but I get all the listeners who liked Heartbreaker but don’t really go past that.

      • Interesting post, especially the Beach House quote. I agree with the sentiment, and it calls to mind someone like Mark Kozelek. Here’s a guy who has had this approach and sensibility from the get-go, and even allowing for variations on the theme over the years (different tunings, nylon vs. steel strings, recent changes to vocal delivery and lyrical approach), his career feels like one of continual refinement and deeper explorations of his world. In the case of Kozelek, he reminds you more of a poet or a filmmaker, who has a recognizable style that he keeps perfecting. I don’t know that I would put Beach House in the same class as MK, but there is something similar going on.

        The problem with Interpol – and I have always loved TOTBL and to a lesser degree Antics, and have really tried over the years to muster the same enthusiasm for the other two records – is that it just doesn’t feel deeper or more sophisticated. It feels repetitive. And repeated exposure to the same tricks and tropes does after a while make the greatness of TOTBL seem like more of a situational, lighting in a bottle kind of thing. By no means does that diminish TOTBL, and in some ways it enhances it. By now, that record is iconic and its increasingly obvious that it will outlast most of the music of the era. But it does kind of diminish Interpol as an ongoing artistic proposition, in my mind at least.

        So Max, I absolutely take your point, its a great one. But – and I have not really spent a lot of time with the album, maybe I’ll change my mind – I still feel like Chris’s take makes sense here.

        • Ah I totally get that. I think there’s probably something to be explored as to how novel “sound” becomes rote over time or what makes some sounds appear to be more like Kozelek (great observation, by the way). In some ways, I suppose there’s an almost indescribable subject stance involved, some indecipherable quality in the music itself, that makes you more willing to meet it halfway or allow that particular style to expand over multiple pieces.

          This is probably a weird record for me to even be bringing this up because, while I mention I like the album, I do think Interpol’s songwriting and general craft has never quite been what it was on Turn on the Bright Lights. In a lot of ways, my feeling towards the record isn’t totally off from Chris’s, if ultimately more generous than considering it “punishing,” but the way in which he gets there is something I’ve become increasingly curious and/or wary about.

          But, hey, this album doesn’t have a song begging for a threesome, so that has to count for something.

  8. The thing about Interpol that people seem to forget is how they’ve (for years) hovered so well between ‘cool’ and mainstream. Its a balance few can successfully pull off. Not sure if I’d label them as a ‘joke’ to some like the article states but will say they definitely exploited the world of brood. Think this album is exactly what any Interpol listener, whether cavalier or diehard, should hope to expect. Its by far the closest thing to Antics/TOYBL I’ve heard. These songs are stripped down, unlike the albums that are associated with their dip for a few years which I thought were just simply overworked.

    We need more bands in our world like Interpol. These guys don’t compromise. They don’t sell out and they certainly don’t try and go outside their comfort zone because, really, why should they? Their only fault is probably the difficulty they had adjusting to the loss of Carlos D because really, I don’t think a band as limited as Interpol’s sound can withstand that death rattle. What are they going to do, go all EDM on ya? And if you want fucked up Interpol, just wait for Banksy next coke induced solo project to scratch your itch. I’ve honestly been waiting for an Interpol album like this for a long time and have finally gotten this, and its a gooood thing, people…

    This is as refreshing a release as I’ve heard because it feels like Interpol, it sweats like Interpol and it smells like Interpol. Turn down the lights, push play and sink into it, ya know, like ya did 15 years ago.

    • Fucking incredible post. Nailed it on every level. They aren’t the best….they aren’t the most varied….they aren’t that deep…….they aren’t moving forward……they aren’t trying anything new…..

      What they are is Interpol. And at the end of the day they are STILL the “coolest” band in the world.

      And Goddammit, that has to count for something.

  9. I was thinking about what we were talking about earlier, particularly blochead, about interpol having a narrow style range to work within. While I think there is some truth to that, I listened to Antics yesterday, well actually I only listened to the opening track, Next Exit. And what impressed me most, and what I think I’ve been trying to express about this album is that no song on this new album has as many distinguishing qualities or even as much melody as Next Exit. Next Exit isn’t even really a favorite song of mine, and there are songs on the new album I like more, but the new album doesn’t have the range I was hoping for, even by Interpol standards, not to mention melodies. THAT being said, although the range is narrow, I’m very much enjoying the songs they have released within those boundaries, and I would consider this Interpol’s first ‘better than the last one’ album. I think it’s a testament to the band that I’m judging them by Interpol’s standards, and no-one else’s.

  10. HEY LOOK!!! It’s Blochead with his 1,323,579 post about Interpol!!! How exciting, right!?!!?!

    Well, Chris’ review hit less than two hours ago. What have we learned today, children?

    People fucking love Interpol and don’t want to hear anything other than “They are fucking awesome”

    I’m one of ‘em

  11. Can we talk about Paul Banks vocal style change from TOTBL to Antics? I think it’s one of their biggest changes in style across their albums. He may have been trying to distance himself from the Ian Curtis comparisons, but am I the only one who kind of misses the deeper, less nasally, brooding vocals? Is that one thing that made their debut just a little bit better?

    • I guess I’m not hearing the vocal change you’re talking about. I felt a slight musical shift starting with Antics, as mentioned above. The band always felt tight and more forced after the first album, as if they’re trying a little too hard.

      • Yeah, it wasn’t their only change, but I’ve considered it one of their major ones. Compare Stella Was a Diver.. to Next exit, or really any song after TOTBL. He doesn’t sing like that anymore.

    • listen to yourself from 12 years ago, i bet you wouldst sound the same either.

    • I do miss his mumble-bass vocals from TOTBL. And I think you’re right: he changed his vocal stylings to backpedal away from the Ian Curtis comparison. I don’t mind the change though, and I still love him as a vocalist.

  12. Summing up…..

    Interpol are awesome
    Chris is a hater
    I just made myself laugh
    Cuz I’m an IDIOT

  13. Summing up…..

    Interpol are awesome
    Chris is a hater
    I just made myself laugh
    Cuz I’m an IDIOT

  14. Good lord. I’m so full of myself today I feel the need to not only tell everybody how I feel on multiple posts I feel some of them need to be posted twice.

    None of this changes the fact that Chris is a hater.

  15. My Desire 2:24. Brilliant.

    • Ever listened to HORRIBLE Interpol knock off band She Wants Revenge? I’m listening to it right now and now that about 10 years have passed it’s really cool to listen to. I kinda have to doff my cap to that band. To rip off a band (Interpol) that’s kinda already a rip off (Joy Division) took seriously balls. The music of She Wants Revenge is so ridiculously lifted it’s amazing.

      • ha yes, I remember hating that band when my coworkers were playing it. ” Why bother, why don’t you just play Interpol?”

      • Even then I think the Joy Division comparisons can be a little overstated. (although obviously not unwarranted) here’s a graphical representation of the relationship to those bands and where they fit on a sliding scale of similitude.

        Joy Division ———————————————-Interpol—She Wants Revenge——-Editors.

        • I have the attention span of a gnat. And It’s been rolling through in my office 12 hours a day for 3 1/2 days now. The first three songs really set the tone for this thing.

        • I’ve always thought the Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen comparisons were overstated as well. I just chalked it up to vague similarities of bands playing dark, atmospheric post-punk music. Then a couple years after I initially got into Interpol I heard the Chameleons debut Script of the Bridge. They owe that band lots and lots of money

      • Not really sure how Interpol was ever a knock-off of Joy Division. I think the only real comparison was Banks’ vocal stylings on their debut. Has no one ever listened to Joy Division?

  16. I’m already finding El Pintor to be more accessible and enjoyable than their self-titled effort, and overall it feels better than OLTA, although some of the songs on that album are pure brilliance as far as I’m concerned (“Pace is the Trick”, “No I in Threesome”, “Rest My Chemistry”, as mentioned above). It’s definitely not TOBL, and it’s definitely still an Interpol album, and I definitely don’t see why basing a review around those two facts is necessary. It’s good music, and it’s better than most of what we’re hearing nowadays so enjoy.

  17. I was an early complainer about El Pintor (see: my barrage of comments from this past week), but the more I sit with this one, the more it’s really dug into me.

    I would put it 3rd behind TOTBL and Antics in their canon – it doesn’t have the “best of” tracks like “Pioneer to the Fall” or “Pace is the Trick,” but is way more consistent, keeping a full-album run of good to very good songs, which is something they haven’t done in a decade.

    • I need to do a side by side comparison of Our Love and El Pintor. Not to mention a good car listen. I don’t feel like I can give have a full appreciation of an album until I can hear it in the car.

      • Car listens are legitimately the only way I can truly assess an album. Which is hard for me because I don’t have an aux connection in my car, so it’s been overrun by burned CD’s. Some guy at CVS made fun of me the other day for buying a 50-pack of CD-R’s. Oh well.

        El Pintor has been in my CD player for a week, and I’ve been compelled to keep it in there without skipping tracks. That’s usually a good sign.

    • YES!!! I feeeeeeeeel like if we keep talking about it within a week all of us will be on the same page….

      “Sure, TOTBL is good but it’s garbage next to El Pintor”

      Everybody except Chris (who as many of us have determined to be a hater)

      Kidding on all counts here…..

    • It doesn’t have “Pioneer to the Falls.” However, every song is consistent and strong and there are no real weak links on El Pintor. Remember Mammoth, Who do you Think? Songs like that on OLTA? They were pure filler. No filler on El Pintor.

  18. it’s hard to say Antics isn’t as good as TOTBL, because it isn’t. But, I noticed yesterday that the NPR First Listen article called it a ‘ferocious letdown.’ That is definitely not true. I always loved that record and I think it gets a bum rap now because of the ones that came after being more of a letdown (much like the Green Album or even Maladroit for Weezer, which are actually pretty fucking awesome records).

    • “Ferocious Letdown” my ass. I know I’m very much in the minority but I prefer Antics to TOTBL. Not by much……but I do.

      • To be fair, I’m not sure NPR was saying Antics was a ferocious letdown, only that TOTBL was setting them up for a ferocious letdown, yet they are still here.

      • I also enjoy Antics a bit more than TOTBL, it just feels more concise to me. Try as I might I cannot find a single weak moment on there, whereas on TOTBL I’ve never been able to really dig “Roland”, for example.

    • Stephen Thompson at NPR is way too loose with the sweeping dismissals. I tried listening NPR’s pop culture podcast one time and had to kill it a few minutes in because it was nothing but bitching about new things.

  19. Chris, are you reviewing Turn on the Bright Lights or El Pintor? I’m pretty exhausted by lazy critics who only talk about their debut.

    The new album is great, and can hold its own against Antics, and depending on who you ask, maybe even the debut. It’s been getting rave reviews from critics and fans alike. If you don’t like anything after Turn on the Bright Lights, don’t listen to this album, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s a great return to form and I am very impressed.

    • I think Interpol suffers from the same fate as the Strokes when it comes to journalists and critics. Both came out the gates with such perfect debuts they were nearly impossible to improve upon. When they each released pretty damn great second albums (“Antics” and “Room on Fire”) they were viewed as let downs by the critics because they were too similar to the debut albums that came before them without the excitement because they were more or less ideas we’d already heard the bands do before. And then each subsequent album by either band has also been tossed aside by critics as not reaching the same heights as TOTBL or Is This It. Twenty years from now both of these bands will probably be viewed much more favorably by critics as they start to recognize that just because they never matched those stellar debuts again doesn’t mean they didn’t put out plenty more great music.

  20. let’s just all be happy that the s/t is behind us and we have some new Interpol!

  21. I find that Interpol is one of those bands whose albums I don’t listen to all the way through. Personally, and I think most people would agree with me, I don’t listen to albums the whole way through nearly as often as I used to. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the way life is now. So the reviewer’s points about TOTBL being a slog and this album just being “ok” all the way through don’t really apply anymore to me because I don’t do that much anymore. I love Interpol while working out and on the iPod in the car within a playlist I’ve created. That said, I pre-ordered the whole album on Amazon. I don’t go as far as blochead haha but I will always stand by Interpol.

  22. This review is a really “interesting” specimen of modern day music journalism on the internets. Basically it can be summed up by “this is a pretty good album (reviewer literally admits it being 10 out of 10 good songs) but you still shouldn’t listen to this”. From there on the reviewer tries to find all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t actually like this despite it being pretty good in his opinion which is not that easy since it’s a bit of a contradiction to begin with. So I wonder… does Interpol currently not fit the Stereogum brand because they are a band that has been considered “passé” for quite some time? Did editorial guidelines prevent him to really give it the thumbs up? In that case it’s actually brave for him to admit it’s against all odds and expectations a good album. Or did they really assign this to someone who thinks Interpol has about half a good album? Maybe that was a pretty bad choice then. In any case, it comes across as pretty biased and reviews like this make me sad cause it was obviously decided in advance you can’t be too positive about an Interpol album in 2014.

    PS: I also learned today that Turn of the Bright Lights gets weaker towards the end. I thought most people consider The New and Leif Erikson to be 2 of the best songs they’ve ever written but who am I…

    • Yeah, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but Chris is just flat out wrong in regards to the latter half of Turn On the Bright lights.

      • I’ll give you one guess as to why Chris is so very wrong about the second half of TOTBL…

        Hint to follow………………………

        (chris is a hater)

  23. d.p.  |   Posted on Aug 28th -4

    Can I really be the only one who thinks Antics is Interpol’s worst album?

    “Next Exit” and “Not Even Jail” are tedium incarnate. “Evil” is so laughably clumsy that I hope never to hear it again as long as I live. “A Time to Be So Small” is basically unchanged from its demo version, released four years earlier by a band not yet fully formed.

    Don’t get me wrong: “Narc”, “Slow Hands”, “Public Pervert”, and especially “Length of Love” are stunners, and the bass breakdowns in “Take You on a Cruise” justify Carlos D’s entire time in the band. But my god, are the bad songs ever bad!

    No Interpol record since has operated at such contradictory extremes. And none has contained a song remotely as terrible as “Evil”.

    • It’s my least favorite…

    • Your comment and my retort might be the ultimate example of why I love the band….

      Antics is my favorite Interpol album
      Evil is my favorite Interpol song.

      I shit you not.

    • Evil is fine, it’s their biggest hit and that doesn’t mean it’s their best song of course but as far as acessible Interpol songs go there is nothing wrong with it. And Not Even Jail is one of their very best songs.

      Our Love to Admire is by far their worst album: it’s all over the place, contains bad attempts to recreate “hits” from Antics like Heinrich Manoevre and Who do You Think, terrible stadium-sized production and lyrics that are neither here nor there.

      • metatron85 just kicked me in the balls.

        Like…..4 times.

      • I’ll be the first to admit Our Love to Admire lacks the immediacy that gave the band its initial power, and that none of its songs reach the dizzying heights of “Length of Love”, but I still think it gets a bum rap.

        “Pioneer to the Falls” is a great — and structurally interesting — opener. “Mammoth” is a certified rager. And “Mind Over Time” has is one of the band’s best applications of texture, and easily its best b-side since “Specialist” (without any of the latter’s stiltedness). And while the songs in between range in quality and impact, each of them has interesting moments and more varied use of guitar and drums than the prior albums, and none of them is a total disaster like the worst tracks on Antics.

        That said, I found the Julian Plenti album infinitely more refreshing.

        • Heh, Length of Love is actually my least favorite song on Antics. Maybe that is the problem.

          Mind Over Time is good but it didn’t make the album proper unless you live in Japan… I dunno if kicking balls is actually a good thing but the main problem I had with OLTA is it’s their only album that seemed to lack some kind of vision, like the band went in the studio and went “well now we’re here anyway lets record some songs that are potential hits like our label requested”. And when that was done someone said “but maybe we need a couple of songs that prove we are still an edgy and experimental band”, so they recorded stuff like Lighthouse and Wrecking Ball. Maybe the iTunes listener who cherry-pick their songs have no problems with that but I still appreciate albums as an artistic statement as a whole and as such OLTA didn’t work at all.

      • Oh no I upvoted you after reading your first paragraph but I disagree with your second one so much!

    • woah Woah WHOAH!

  24. Why do music journalists feel the need for Interpol to follow the Radiohead’s path of musical evolution (that of each subsequent album being a complete re-imagining of the band’s sound)? I can’t think of any other band that has been forced to such strict guidelines. I was just going over Pitchfork’s original TOTBL review:

    “although it’s no Closer or OK Computer, it’s not unthinkable that this band might aspire to such heights”.

    • Not to mention the fact that Radiohead’s last three were not all that different from each other, in my opinion, at least not enough to claim any sort of reinvention.

      • OK….here’s the point where LeMonjello and I go our seperate ways. Cuz this admission usually gets a giant “EWWWWWWW”……………

        I hate Radiohead. ‘Cept Pablo Honey and some of The Bends. Everything after that is artsy fartsy crap with song structures I can’t stand.

        YUP.

        • WHAT THE FUUUUU…..
          nah, I’m not a huge Radiohead fanatic, so we can still be friends. But I’m surprised none the less.

        • Dear Lawd Jesus….

        • That’s strange, you are basically the exact inverse of every Radiohead fan on here. Anyways, to avoid this turning into a thread about Radiohead, the point is, when it came out, nobody dedicated an entire review of King of Limbs to talking about OK Computer…

          • Completely concur. And believe it or not I’ve spent gobs of time on the topic of Radiohead. Cuz as you said most Radiohead fans don’t like Pablo Honey. And it’s really the only album by them I can fully tolerate. I’ve also wondered why I can’t stand St. Vincent. And then one day it hit me straight between the eyes. I hate art rock. I love songs and melodies. And in art rock those things tend to get buried under many layers of other crap I have no use for. Some of my absolute favorite bands are Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Girls, Jens Lekman, etc.

            I’ve only recently decided to go with the tact that “I don’t get it” as opposed to my earlier inclination to say “There’s no song there and they suck ass”. Holy shit!! Almost forgot Animal Collective….AWFUL ART ROCK TRIPE. I’m still working on the “I don’t get it” thing……

            Ok, I’m done now.

    • Radiohead’s, not “The Radiohead’s” Ugghhhhhhhhhhh

      • Stupid analogy……Often baseball analysts will discuss the “evolution” of a hitter from a dead pull power hitter to a more complete hitter capable of spraying the ball all over the field. Will Clark is a perfect example of this kind of “evolution”.

        I have no use for these hitters that have evolved into more complete hitters. Cuz with that opposite field approach their power numbers invariably go down. The greatest hitter that ever lived, Ted Williams, once said he decided to retire simply because he could no longer consistantly pull the ball and was forced to use the entire field.

        Evolution in bands is the single most overrated tripe EVER. Some of the greatest bands of all time had A SOUND. And stuck with it whether or not it was currently sexy to do so. The Ramones and Motorhead are perfect examples.

        To use the ultimate cliche’…..if it aint broke don’t fix it.

        • Totally agree, and loved the analogy, but Radiohead has some of the most beautiful songs of our generation, if not ever. They’re not my favorite band (third down on the list), but their music affects me in a way that nothing else does. Beautiful melodies and driven by emotion; I can feel it in my bones, pardon the pun.

        • Tell that to Mark Teixeira! #killedbytheshift

      • I accidentally referred to Talking Heads as The Talking Heads the other day, man did I get reamed for that one.

        • that’s correct though. you’re using the article outside the context of the name of the band. otherwise you’re merely stating your fandom for multiple heads which talk

  25. as well you shold be. Pagan

  26. I knew you guys would take care of this comment section without me :)

    “El Pintor” is in the car stereo and I’m working on my few dozen listens as the good Interpol fan I am.

    Just wanted to slide in here at the bottom (after reading oh so many comments) with this brief observation:

    If you ever wanted to know what Carlos D added to Interpol, listen to the Antics remixes each member did in order:

    Narc (Banks)
    Not Even Jail (Kessler)
    Length of Love (Fogarino)
    Public Pervert (Big D)

    You’ll notice they get better, and better, then best. It’ll also remind you that “Public Pervert” is one of Interpol’s best songs, though the remix certainly takes the cake.

    Anyway, carry on blochead ;)

    • Something that some people don’t seem to realise but is actually a fact: Carlos D (not just the bass player but also the guy who handled keyboards on their later albums) was actually the biggest mastermind behind Interpol self-titled (and left because he didn’t like touring and had personal problems with other members of the band, not because he didn’t agree creatively).

      Banks e.g. about Interpol s/t on http://thequietus.com/articles/15751-interpol-el-pintor-interview: : “That is a question probably more appropriate to Daniel as the guy that introduces the material. Speaking for him I would say that, yeah, on the fourth record he tried to go very experimental. And then Carlos went, you know – if Daniel went one degree left-of-centre, Carlos intentionally went another degree-and-a-half left of that. Independently of Daniel’s interest in trying to be left-of-centre, Carlos on his own initiative wanted to go even further”.

  27. Mugr  |   Posted on Aug 28th +5

    What annozs me about the pop/indie-discourse: ppl in general aren’t very interested in divorcing an artist from the ‘it’-moment they might have had. All the focus on reception and public perception gets in the way of appreciating the music, whether it be a great departure of a bands earlier work or just a refinement. Do Interpol have to be precisely as cool as they were when TOTBL came out for anyone to care? Does the fact that they never possibly will be again make all they have done irrelevant? I make a point of going back to mjsic i liked at an earlier stage in my life, just to see whether it still holds up to my evolving (hooefully) perception, and most of the time i am happy to say it does, and i tend to get a tiny bit more out of the process if the artist in question is not currently a relevant reference point in the blogosphere. Does El Pintor matter? Well, it does to me, because i happen to like tthe music Interpol make and i think they have made another entry to their canon worth exploring and living with for some time, and hopefully to be reexamined/enjoyed in a few years, when the whole release-hype has died down…Anyway, am I really literally the only person on here to really have enjoyed their last album from 2010?

    • Mugr  |   Posted on Aug 28th +1

      This is by the way more of a general rant than anything directed specifically at the review…

  28. Carlos cheated!!!!!!!! Public Pervert is the best of the lot and also the easiest to remix!!!!!!!!!
    GAARRRGGHGHGGGHGGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    How was that, RJ? Was that the reaction you was looking for?

    You should check out my re-mix of Obstacle 1. It’s AMAZING. I took the original cut from the album, burned it to ITunes, put it on a blank CDR, and then played it it my car. OK so it’s not really much of a “remix”

  29. Hey Stereogum, I would like very much to both respectfully disagree and argue with these same people over a top 10 Interpol song list……….

  30. Private thread!!!! Since I’ve been obnoxiously ominipresent on this thread you know I’m game.

    Evil
    Obstacle 1
    Leif Erikson
    Next Exit
    Public Pervert
    My Desire
    Slow Hands
    Pioneer to the Falls
    The New
    Not Even Jail

    Also my Neo-folk punk goth fusion band “Obnoxiously Omnipresent” debut comes out next week

    • Obstacle 1
      Public Pervert
      Pioneer to the Falls
      Not Even Jail
      Leif Erikson
      My Desire
      Slow Hands
      Next Exit
      The Lighthouse
      Untitled/The New/A Time to Be So Small

      (See all that Antics and 2nd half of TOTBL in there, Chris?)

    • Obstacle 1
      Pace is the Trick
      Leif Erikson
      Stella (Stell-Aaaa) Was a Diver and She Was Always Down
      Untitled
      Narc
      Say Hello to the Angels
      Rest My Chemistry
      No I in Threesome
      Memory Serves

    • Are we naming favorite Interpol songs! Fun!

      Not Even Jail
      Say Hello To The Angels
      Roland
      PDA
      Public Pervert
      Hands Away
      Untitled
      NYC
      Specialist
      Take You On A Cruise

      • Oh look! it’s stopped snowing!

        • When those guitars intertwine after Paul delivers, “He was growing on me,” and spiral out of the stratosphere is the same point at which my pantaloons become fully jazzed.

          • I’m glad you included Specialist, I would argue it’s their best track, inasmuch as that song includes every band member doing what they do best, at their best. The perfect showcase of what Interpol is.

      • RJ…thought you should know you missed Obstacle 1. And seeing that ridiculous oversite on your part def. put the weights into my little heart.

        • I also forgot “The New” , “Leif Erikson” and basically every other track on TOTBL. Pretty pointless picking favorites from an album that cohesive.

    • Specialist (Have you all forgotten about Specialist!?)
      Stella Was a Diver
      Not Even Jail
      Leif Erikson
      Untitled
      Take you on a Cruise
      C’mere
      Obstacle 1
      My Desire
      Who do you think

    • How could I not jump in on this Interpol love fest?

      Untitled (one of the best opening tracks ever IMO, and it was used so well on Friends!)
      The New
      Leif Erikson
      A Time to be so Small
      Stella
      Song Seven
      The Lighthouse
      C’mere
      Mind Over Time
      Public Pervert

  31. I feel like a lot of these “hot” bands from the early 2000s are getting the shaft these days. They came into the scene with a fresh sound, and critics and fans demanded more. So what did they do? They did more. Then they did another one, and critics said “try something new.” The Strokes albums don’t really sound that different, with the exception of the last. Same as Interpol, but it’s all the same thing with small subtle differences. It’s their style, and I don’t particularly agree with chastising them just because they have kept the same formula that people demanded. How many Led Zeppelin albums are vastly different than their predecessor?

    If it’s what you’ve come to expect from a band, why should you be disappointed? El Pintor is a solid album, and I’m not even a huge fan of Interpol. I like all of their albums, even the self-titled, because I know what I’m getting into when I put on an album by them. Spoon hasn’t changed that much, They Want My Soul just has catchier melodies than Transference, so naturally it’s getting praised.

    Just seems unfair to continuously berate these bands just because they are doing what everyone asked of them. Not every band is the Beatles, so why hold them to the same regard? Seems like an easy way to get out of writing a thorough review, and just pass it off as “more of the same.”

  32. I’m a bit of a lapsed Interpol fan. Like the casual part of their fanbase I loved the first two albums but only liked a handful of tracks from the last two.

    With that said I really enjoyed El Pintor all the way through on my first couple listens. “Tidal Wave” is my early favorite, but none of the tracks compelled me to hit the fast-forward button. Just a consistently strong album

  33. Interpol came out of the gate fully formed. Not a lot of bands can do that. But they’ve paid the price for having done so. It’s like the Pitchforks and the Stereogums of the world are punishing them for not needing them to succeed. It’s silly. Anything past Antics gets slapped with DIMINISHING RETURNS. Comparing Interpol to Interpol is boring. The point should be: Compare Interpol to other bands out there. Some of the commenters here have correctly pointed out that if El Pintor were by a brand new band people would be creaming their pants. It’s so true. But since it’s Interpol it’s like, “Oh, we know you’re shtick.” Interpol clearly have very few peers. They fill a musical void, and they do it very well. It’s really OK to like new Interpol. I mean, is anyone going to be listening to Grouper (or choose your own trendy nonsense) in five years? Fuck no.

  34. It’s just me or Our Love to Admire is the best Interpol’s record?
    I love that fucking album, and the songs doesn’t sound the “same”.
    Also, El Pintor is very huge, I loved it as well.

  35. I don’t understand why you base your critic on their previous albums. We should talk about “El Pintor” despite whatever kind of work they did before. I really don’t get why it tends to be like that when a band releases a new album. It makes no sense to me.

    I think this will be a great one. Surely, it has a lot of work on it and it is easy to notice, I think. When it comes to Interpol, you have to go thru the songs quite a few times to appreciate it fully.

    So far (Ancient ways, All the rage back home), it’s been really acceptable and I’m glad with the result (way more than I was with Interpol 2010).

    • I completely agree with you. It’s a terrible vice some people have, to compare the previous albums. If you guys don’t know it, the thrill of music is the novelty of it and the experimentation. If you want a copy of Our Love to Admire or Turn on The Bright Lights, you can go listen to it. Bands are entitled to respect and follow their inspiration and their gut, not what fans are expecting.
      I think this is a very solid album, with the atmospheric sounds that make them unique. They take more risks with a more hyper sound and lyrics that take you places. I think you guys should take your time to listen to it and embrace it. Interpol is not a band of songs you like instantly. This record is incredible, I’m not gonna compare it with the previous ones, all of them have a different essence.
      If you want more of the same, I don’t know, go get one of those Skryllex records or something…

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