For a band like Interpol, the prospect of change must seem incredibly frightening. Since 2002 the New York post-punk outfit has maintained a certain level of quality by sticking close to the sound and vibe captured best in their debut, Turn On The Bright Lights.
So while contemporaries like The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were experimenting and pushing their sound in new directions, Interpol was content with staying in their own lane. And for a while, this worked, but on their past few releases (particularly the criminally bland El Pintor) it’s just made the band feel forgettable.
Thankfully the four-year absence the band took after their last release has given them a new life which these showcase on their newest album Marauder. The clearest sign that the band is aiming high this time is the change in production.
Producer Dave Friddman (Flaming Lips) added an analogue recording style this time around to give the bands sound a rawer and more organic feel, closer to their earlier releases. In this way, the lead single ‘The Rover’ felt like a return to glory, both in its sonics and in Paul Banks lyricism.
Coming in with thumbing guitars and percussion the song makes an impression immediately. But it’s Bank’s words on it, and much of the other tracks on the album, that push it to another level. Ageing, love, and his own place in the world are at the forefront of much of Bank’s lyrics this time around and he makes you feel each one.
“Come and see me / yeah maybe you’ll try/I’ve been holding these pyros till they could fly” sings Banks on ‘The Rover’ as he wrestles with the idea that he might have been long past his prime. That fear comes up again on ‘Surveillance’ where he sings “Great hesitations of the mind will stay/this shit is made up/somebody paid for it.”
Banks’ maturity here is a great leap forward from his past few works and while the subjects are nothing new the aged insight gives Interpol an edge over other bands. There is even some room for family strive like on the song ‘It Probably Matters’ where Banks goes through his past transgressions hoping to be a better man on the other side.
It helps then that the sound has also grown to meet Bank’s lyricism. Sam Fogarino’s percussion work lend a band hand in creating a mood within these songs sonically and give a lot of these tracks a unique character. His work on ‘Flight of Fancy’ in conjunction with Daniel Kessler’s excellent guitar work gives the song a bouncy vibe.
One wishes they were to do a little more to beef up their sound, perhaps with additional instrumentation but for this back to basics approach, it works well. Ultimately for fans of the band, Marauder is a welcome return to their past while updating here and there to give their sounds fresh paint job. Where once an Interpol release would be predictable it’s nice hearing the band go somewhere unexpected.
Marauder is out now on Matador Records.