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Paul Banks, ‘Julian Plenti Lives’ EP – Album Review

Julian Plenti Lives

The frontman of Interpol, Paul Banks, has released a new EP that is as off-the-wall as it is deadpan, as heartfelt as it is wacky. In only five tracks, the record gives the listener a breadth of experience, making ‘Julian Plenti Lives’ one of the most interesting surprises of the year.

If you’re wondering who Julien Plenti is, that’s the sobriquet Banks uses for his solo work, first appearing in the 2009 release ‘Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper.’ While less architectural, the new release is equally memorable, featuring two original tracks and three covers of radically different artists.

The listen opens up with a Harold Faltermeyer cover, the sci-fi power metal instrumental of ‘Perimeter Deactivate,’ which sounds like if Blind Guardian laid the soundtrack for ‘Mass Effect,’ 2:44 of dragon-ready lead guitar and far-future synths, revealing Banks’ impressively adroit nerd aesthetic.

The case could be made that the second track is a bit more serious, the troubadour-symphonics of ‘Summertime is Coming’ hewing a bit closer to Banks’ work with Interpol, reminiscent to Spiritualized in Jason Pierce’s more sober moments — complete with a pining cosmic love conundrum: “Can we waste some more time just colliding in space?” As Banks evidences, summertime is here — and it sounds real nice.

The second cover is from a surprising source: the revered and deceased Detroit DJ J Dilla, whose ‘Mythsysizer’ appeared on his posthumous 2009 album ‘Jay Stay Paid’ in a much crunchier original version. Banks continues his sleek electronic aesthetic and marries it to Dilla’s atmospheric production, producing an understated, high-powered instrumental that somehow blends perfectly into Frank Sinatra.

That’s right, the next song up is from Ol’ Blue Eyes. For ‘I’m A Fool to Want You,’ Banks puts on his best croon among instrumentals that sound alarmingly like Gorillaz: seems Banks and Damon Albarn share a taste for the post-apocalyptic love anthem. With none other than Frank Sinatra supplying the tune, the product is a sexy serenade fit for an indie rock James Bond (in the far future).

The last track is another Banks original: ‘Cavern Worship’ is the outro to the intro of ‘Perimeter,’ lending the EP an elegant narrative arc. While not quite as memorable as the other tracks, the layers of strings and percussion are both calm and triumphant, uniting the primary emotional themes of these 18 minutes inside Banks’ mind.

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