Interpol – Antics Review

With New York being the hub (based solely on the geographical proximity to the Strokes, and, coincidentally, the center of the national news media) of a new rock revolution, countless bands converged on the mainstream, some being only signed for having a favorable area code. With a list that includes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Walkmen, and The Rapture, Interpol were the band most destined for stadium status. Turn on the Bright Lights dropped with little hype (well, at least in comparison to their NY brethren) and immediately gained a cult following.

The songs had depth and carried a weight with many of its listeners. Constant touring and great singles like ‘PDA’ and ‘Obstacle 1′ kept their visibility up. Now two years removed from their debut, and a renaissance for truly creative, original music on mainstream radio that they helped forged, Antics is the most anticipated indie album of the year.

Anyone expecting Bright Lights part deux will be in for a surprise. The opening track on any album lays the groundwork for what the listener should expect. And much like the slow, minor-key intro ‘untitled’ did for Interpol’s debut, ‘Next Exit’ captures what is in store. Beginning with an uplifting organ wash, Paul Banks declares ‘We ain’t going to the town/we’re going to the city,’ informing the listener that they will be taking a slightly different path than expected. This is practically a party record. The songs carry a more focused energy, rarely embarking to the dark alleyways and unlit corridors that constituted a considerable portion of the last album.

The two straight years of touring Interpol did for Bright Lights definitely affected this release. The band is more cohesive and direct. Also, their escalating popularity put them in situations not suited for the low key nature of their music. Playing moody, atmospheric songs work great in a dark club at midnight, but it is a different beast to be playing the second stage at a radio festival at two in the afternoon. In those instances, songs with more punch are needed. Interpol has always had those in their arsenal (such as ‘Say Hello to the Angels’ and ‘Roland’), but they made up the minority. Antics reverses the ratio.

The rhythm section of Sam Fogarino and fashion plate Carlos Dangler demand most of the attention on this album. While Bright Lights worked to create mood first and then melody second, Antics keeps everything upfront. There are definite Interpol moments, like Daniel Kessle’s signature repetitive note overture 1:20 into ‘Evil,’ but they don’t dominate the album, a potential pitfall for any band that has a definite ‘sound.’ While Bright Lights was the perfect soundtrack for headphones and hip record store scenes on Six Feet Under, Antics works great in the car bouncing between nightclubs and the opening credits to Entourage.

First single ‘Slow Hands’ finds Banks reminiscing over a lost love, a dominant them on this album. The uptempo beat and high energy of the song betrays the dour lyrics, as if he enjoys the pain in some magnificent denial. You can picture him smirking as he asks, ‘Can you see what you’ve done to my heart? /and my soul/this is a wasteland now.’ ‘Not Even Jail’ keeps the same persistent post-punk beat driving the song that builds, breaks down, repeats.

A nautical theme, which appeared on earlier songs like ‘Stella was a dive’, reemerge on this album. On both ‘Take you on a Cruise’ and ‘Public Pervert’, references to the sea, following stars, and ‘sailing to Norway’ take on dual meanings of isolation and discovery. Not surprisingly, these songs sound most like their earlier work, with the dynamics of Banks and Kessle’s guitar work setting up the melodramatic bombast of Fogarino’s stomping drums, giving way to Carlos D’s underrated bass lines.

Paul Banks confidence as a front man has greatly improved since their last effort, and is the biggest difference between albums. The eremitic hermit who hid behind great soundscapes has emerged after hundreds of shows and years of touring a self-assured sage, demanding us to ‘take hold of your time here/give some meaning to the means/to your end.’ Unfortunately, the lyrical output at times still has a cringe factor, as evidenced one-minute later he also asks ‘Can we all hold hands/When we make new friends?’

Compared to many recent second albums, Antics is a considerable detachment from anything Interpol has done before, while still rooted in everything that makes them great. Whereas the Strokes essentially remade Is This It, Interpol faced the sophomore challenge and stepped out from under the shadows of their influences.

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