Long Play: Interpol, El Pintor

Interpol is morose, but they are also defiant, they are frenetic, they are despondent and daring, colored both with gloom and glory. They build a long dark tunnel, but they also show the glimmer of light at its end. With El Pintor, their fifth album, they have smoothed out the edges, left behind the contrived roughness of their self-titled fourth album, and let more of that light in. The result is lean, composed and driven, a 40 minute dose of music that has more wisdom than angst, that is interested in the sounds of destruction, but pays equal attention to the act of rebuilding: this is post-punk with the emphasis on post, on looking back, but also forward.

A band that by any measure should be passed its prime, Interpol remain immediate by wearing their influences well, by standing on the foundations they’ve built without becoming weighed down by repetition. They are melodic on lead track and single “All The Rage Back Home”which we featured back in July, and on “My Blue Supreme”, but they find time for lavish rock on “Anywhere” and on the darkly romantic “My Desire”.  On “Everything Is Wrong”, they play a bait and switch, taking a depressive title and filling it with instead with optimism, asking “Can we start over as agents of peace?” If this is their aim, they’ve found a good start. 

Their new leanness of sound is reflected in the band’s lineup: with the departure of bassist Carlos D during their four year hiatus, they are reborn now as a trio, with frontman Paul Banks taking up the four strings, at least in the studio.

The result is a clarity and focus that has been missing from their last few efforts, and that gives El Pintor the resolute urgency it needs to thrive. There is darkness here, but it is tempered with a newfound lightness, every wistful croon blanketed in a metallic haze of guitar, but also with drive, and hope. Interpol will always be more at home in a cigarette shrouded bar than a yoga studio, but they have emerged from the post-emo, post-9/11, post-punk scene of a decade ago with more brevity and depth, to make an album for here, and for now.

El Pintor is available for purchase on iTunesor to stream on Spotify, courtesy of Matador Records. Image courtesy of interpolnyc.com

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