Turn on the Bright Lights is a great debut album. The guitars are compelling when paired with Paul Banks's jarring vocals, letting bizarre lyrics like "subway is a porno" slide. The bass lines are far from boring and the drumming is precise and deliberate. All this talent was fused into a euphoric experience that was warmly received by the press. It is enticing to make the same exact album to avoid the sophomore slump, but these well-suited musicians did not succumb to the temptation.
Antics develops a more upbeat sound, but bassist Carlos Dengler insists, "[Paul Banks] was pretty unhappy" in a recent interview. The tracks are more danceable; instead of grooving to morbid lyrics like "and you go stabbing yourself in the neck," the lyrics like "hey wait/great smile" are more appropriate to dance to. The tracks "Take You on a Cruise" and "Not Even Jail" echo closely the grandeur of their debut, but other tracks explore a lighter sound.
"Next Exit" is initiated by a resonating organ followed by Banks's vocals cueing in the soughing guitars and the gentle drums. The church-like organ sounds as if Banks has just received a spiritual revelation, yet all he can sing is, "we ain't going to the town/we're going to the city" listlessly. Dengler begins "Evil" with a quiet, menacing bass line, and then Banks joins in, sweetly singing about a girl named Rosemary. There's a nice suspension with the rhetorical question, "but hey who's on trial?", disjointed strumming, then intense drumming launching into a ridiculously catchy chorus. Banks addresses a different lady in the chorus as he exasperatedly sings, "Sandy why can't we look the other way?/why can't we play the other game?" The verses and the chorus do not really connect lyrically, so I guess it doesn't matter if he's singing about two different girls.
The first single "Slow Hands" is a good contender for Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" on the airwaves; it is hip, energetic, and infectious. Banks wears his heart on his chic sleeve with lyrics, "can't you see what you've done to my heart and soul?/this is a wasteland now," but to hurt is "so painless" and it inspires him to "pick up [his] guitar and celebrate the myriad ways that [he] loves you." Although there is an opportune time for a guitar solo when the keyboard and bass drone softly, Daniel Kessler only halfheartedly plays a riff. "C'mere" has the most affectionate lyrics "oh how I love you in the evenings/when we are sleeping/we are sleeping," but Banks's vocals do not deliver enough passion. It's another song about him being spurned, so the theme must be somewhat tedious for him.
I obviously enjoy Turn on the Bright Lights more, but Antics is a good album. The songs are catchier and the lyrics are better; however, there are less long and palpable instrumental sections. Those instrumental sections on their debut made the emotions and mood tangible and the lack of them on Antics project conflicting feelings.
Well Scene Point Blank-ers, I've got some bad news: there will be nothing shocking in this review. The reason for this is that there is nothing surprising about the new Interpol album. I know that's what all the other reviews are saying as well, but I'm going to have to agree with them on this one. I could lie to you and tell you otherwise but I wouldn't want to talk any Turn on the Bright Lights fans out of picking up Antics.
On Antics Interpol basically picks up exactly where they left off on the last album. For most bands the old "if it ain't broke don't fix it" method is usually a terrible idea, but for Interpol it may be the key to continued indie dominance. Paul Banks and the crew have constructed ten new songs following the same blueprint: driving guitars, simple pounding drums, and vocals that sound like a dictator shouting orders down to the masses.
A couple tracks on Antics, however, do have a genuinely warmer sound. The first twenty seconds of the album are very Legend of Zelda-esque and "Next Exit" proves to be one of the band's mellower tracks. The next song "Evil" has a soulful melody and is officially the only cool song ever written about a girl named Rosemary. This song is proof that Interpol could sing about whatever the hell they want and it would still sound profound. As far as the rest of the album is concerned, it's just the same Interpol we know and love.
The question that everyone wants answered is: which album is better? Unfortunately, I don't think there is an answer to that. Turn on the Bright Lights gets due respect for being one of the best debut albums of the last five years, but Antics scores big points for being an amazing sophomore effort (the album that notoriously makes or breaks bands). A better album cannot be chosen from the two, but if they're both great who really cares?
At this point you have to ask yourself what direction will the band go on the next album? Would it be possible to squeeze another carbon copy album out, or are people ready to hear a new and "mature" Interpol? What do you think?
8.75 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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