Interpol, ‘El Pintor’ – Album Review
There’s an upside to releasing an album as universally panned as Interpol’s self-titled and self-indulgent 2010 album -- there’s presumably nowhere to go but up. While that’s true of ‘El Pintor’ (an anagram for the band’s name that means "the painter" in Spanish), it’s exactly what the title subliminally implies: the same old Interpol, just jumbled up a little.
For a minute there, though, it seemed like New York City’s gloomiest indie icons might not even make it to album No. 5. The members temporarily went their separate ways after the release of ‘Interpol’ -- an album that even frontman Paul Banks now refers to as “pretty left-field” -- and bassist Carlos Dengler left for good. That pushed Banks to pick up the bass duties, a move that prompted a trimming of the conceptual fat among he and the other two remaining members -- guitarist Dan Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino. Although the result is more straight-ahead Interpol songs reminiscent of those on 2007’s ‘Our Love to Admire,’ it’s obvious the band is grasping at the sonic straws that brought them success with their 2002 debut, ‘Turn on the Bright Lights,’ and the 2004 follow-up, ‘Antics.’
You can basically go song-by-song and pick out reference points from the band’s back catalog: raucous album opener and lead single, ‘All the Rage Back Home,’ feels a lot like the ‘Antics’ opener, ‘Next Exit,’ the intricate ‘My Desire’ evokes ‘All Fired Up’ from 'Our Love to Admire,’ and the slow-burning ‘My Supreme’ sounds an awful lot like that album’s ‘Rest My Chemistry.’
But to the casual observer, most Interpol songs sound like most Interpol songs, and if that’s what you’re looking for -- you won’t be disappointed. While there’s a distinct lack of hooks on ‘El Pintor,’ Kessler’s delicate, twirling guitar lines and Fogarino’s driving rhythms push the album along despite a few numbers (‘Same Town, New Story’ and ‘Everything is Wrong’) that seemingly go nowhere. Banks -- never known for deep lyricism -- provides exactly what you’d expect: a lot of monotone and “he said, she saids,” although he breaks into an ill-advised falsetto during ‘Ancient Ways’ sure to cause a few grimaces.
In the end, it’s clear that ‘El Pintor’ is only the band’s third- or fourth-best effort, which we know is a backhanded compliment. But it’s the definition of “serviceable” -- it fills the hole where new Interpol music should be with songs that don’t stray far from anyone’s expectations of who Interpol ever were.