The Call Up: Interpol returns to the Bright Lights

On Interpol’s self-titled album, Paul Banks sings lines like “I have succeeded/I won’t compete for long” on the opening track, “Success”. The song can be seen as a response to the life the band’s own achievements have created. On the other hand, though, it’s also a self-fulfilling, if unintentional, prophecy. With their best record since their debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights, the trio have returned to the top, regaining the success that they found almost a decade ago.

When Interpol first appearance on the scene with Bright Lights, it was met with almost unanimous critical praise. Propelled by dark, post-punk songs like “PDA”, “NYC”, and “Obstacle 1”, the record would find itself on many Best of the Decade lists once 2010 arrived. In 2004, they returned with Antics, similar in style but brighter in tone. Three years later, Our Love to Admire dropped, expanding the band’s trademark sounds with keyboards and other textures.

After a long tour and a number of side projects, the group reconvened with Interpol last year. Chris Coplan’s review gave it high marks, stating that the narrative is “a story that builds from an emotionally-resilient semi-joyousness in the beginning (“Success”, “Memory Serves”, and “Summer Well”) to creepy, morose, and sinister by the end (specifically the last two tracks, “All of the Ways” and “The Undoing”).” However, as great as the themes are, the music needs to fit too. As Coplan wrote, “The way in which the story is actually built musically is more brilliant than the subject matter and its subsequent shift. From track one through five, the band starts with more of their more fundamental rock essentials. Then, from track six through 10, they get to their desired output, albeit slowly and pretty incrementally: That huge sound is less about rocking and more about creating a very particular vibe.”

In a quick, rather curt interview with CoS, drummer Sam Fogarino revealed that despite the intricate tales told lyrically and musically, the band just let it happen. “It’s all pretty much natural,” Fogarino explained. “The songs dictate themselves. You just try to foster them and you don’t try to force anything. You try not to hold on to a specific ideal when you’re working on the material.”

While Interpol is definitely an album to lose yourself in, the band’s live show is another experience entirely. Much has been made of Interpol’s straightforward, no-frills stage persona, to the point that some critics write off their performances entirely, expecting the deadpan vocal deliveries to come with equally dull men. However, Philip Cosores’ live review proved otherwise. He wrote, back in October of last year, “Paul Banks showed both emotion (wha?) and personality (wha? wha?) as frontman for the group, demonstrating a true joy for playing for fans and taking time away from the spotlight to jam with founding member of the group, Daniel Kessler.” He went on to praise the show, overall.

This tour hasn’t been without challenges, though. The loss of bassist Carlos Dengler, who left the band after the album was finished, worried fans about the hole he left onstage. Then there was the additional setting of opening for U2 in football stadiums both in Europe last year and North America this summer, a setting that very few rock bands actually get to play in anymore. While the loss of Dengler hasn’t changed live performance for Fogarino, playing to U2’s audience was seen as a tougher obstacle for the band. “It’s way more of a challenge to get in there and convince them that you’re good,” Fogarino continued. “There’s a short amount of time you get to play to them. With your own audience, it’s a guaranteed thing. It can be pretty stressful, which is why we don’t do it that much.

Although those U2 dates are currently the last thing on Interpol’s itinerary, they do have plans to keep touring beyond this July, although nothing can be confirmed yet. Whatever the case, it’s clear that Interpol is once again on top of their game, striving through changes and challenges as they reach new levels of “Success”. Turn on the bright lights.


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