As a fan, I just want to clear the air and say I am still not over Carlos Dengler leaving the group. And yes, I read his heartfelt op-ed on Pitchfork about how the forever-in-our-hearts David Bowie saved him from drugs & the Rock-n-Roll lifestyle…I. Am. Still. Upset.
Does this make El Pintor a bad album–of course not; would it have been better with him, definitely debatable. But Interpol has been heading in a ever so slightly different direction for a while now, and one that I frankly admire and find much more satisfying. 10-years-ago Interpol was very appropriate for 10-years-ago me and likewise, present day Interpol grooves much better with present day me. I would argue that if they put out an Antics-esque album instead of El Pintor I would have been sorely disappointed–but yay, I don’t have to be! So here we go…
I am really pleased that the classic Interpol tremolo is all over this album as with all the previous ones. I am an absolute sucker for it and at this point its almost comforting to hear it still being worked into the fabric of their songs. I frankly don’t have a lot to say about the bass change-over, which is mostly unnoticeable (in the best sense). “Everything Is Wrong” has a particularly notable bass presence. I really enjoyed the contrast between the bass line and the wavering guitar before the first verse and in general felt that the bass for this song was really gelling with the album’s vibe. I did find it a little ironic that, given this track’s title, it had arguably the best bass effort on the album. “Tidal Wave” also had a nice pep in the bass area.
The whole album feels a bit like trying to desperately grasp at something that’s slipping through your fingers. “All the Rage Back Home” has a sort of building-up-to-middle-age anxiety vibe. “Anywhere”‘s summery, bright chords and “I could go anywhere” chant are oozing in nostalgic teen energy. “My Blue Supreme” is kind of forgettable, like having a dream that you’re really cool but completely forgetting that dream by mid-morning. “Breaker 1” feels like drunkenly floating through a party. “Ancient Ways”‘s little “fuck the ancient ways” jab has an adolescent punk resilience that feels a little forced. The bridge to “Twice As Hard” is syrupy like being too high and trying really hard to focus on something important.
On “Try It On” from Interpol, the opening line is “I need the sunlight to keep me above these moderations.” There are several tracks on El Pintor that come off as the musical equivalent of that sunlight. The little guitar licks in the second verse of “All the Rage Back Home” and the “heyayayay”‘s. The confident “rocker” solo intro in “Anywhere.” The funky call and response in “Same Town, New Story.” The beachy guitar vibrato and vocal harmonies in “The Depths,” which has arguably the most poignant, if not the best, lyrics on the album.
I have a lot of “I loves” on this album that don’t quite fit together neatly, so here’s a point-by-point:
- “My Desire”: Swinging guitar melody. This song also has a musical embodiment of shaking your head back and forth–like listless indie headbanging. Ebb and flow of dynamics are wonderfully timed.
- “Breaker 1”: A stark contrast in mood from “Everything Is Wrong.” Drum crescendos are beautifully placed and contrast nicely against the cymbal rides. Really enjoyed the melody and overlapping words at the end; very reminiscent of Latin American music, seen much more in Interpol, and is nice to see a shimmer of here.
- “Tidal Wave”: Drums have a sort of tribal mood, which is very moving. Glissandi are an interesting mix-up from the normal bag of tricks. Minors at the end are a nice wrap up for the direction of the track, especially in conjunction with the “the tidal wave” repetitions and bleating guitar line. Reminds me a little of The Cure at the very end (in a good way), perhaps because it sounds a little synthy.
- “Twice As Hard”: Quite possibly my fav track. Drum part reminds me of walking all sexy sultry across a room. *sigh*
This whole album is like laying in the sun drinking beer–or perhaps that’s just my desire–the album is like a longing for relaxation and “good life.” Overall, the lyrics are not particularly striking in the verses, but do have catchy hooks. Perhaps they gave too much soul in Interpol and this is what’s left–there’s no need to replay those ghosts. Before I close (although really I’m done reviewing here!), I would like to take a moment to give kudos to Sam Fogarino. I spend a lot of time swooning over Paul and experiencing some crazy soul-catharsis from Carlos Dengler’s sweet bass licks, but Sam’s work on the drums adds such an indescribable texture to Interpol’s oeuvre. So, a big awe-inspired thank you.
I had some little “I wish these things had been different”s, but frankly I’m over it. I just killed my own magical Paul Banks fantasy by digging up his love life on the internets. (That’s what I get) …So the last couple days I’ve been rocking this silly make-believe that I’m won from my husband in a chess battle-of-hearts & happily ever after blah blah. ANYWAYS that’s over now–and that is wholly more disappointment than any little quips I had about this album. So Paul, if you’re reading this, take your fucking time machine back to 2008 and visit Sacramento, where a beautiful little 20 year old is slow-show dancing in her bra and a black mini to “Narc” and waiting for her perfect music man to touch her, oh tonight. Giggle.