The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Julian Plenti
Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper Thom Ward , July 31st, 2009 08:43

The concept of altering one's guise in the music industry is not a new one: David Bowie transformed his chiseled pop star image into that of Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous alien glam rock star preaching world peace before shedding his skin half a decade later into the funk infatuated Thin White Duke; Prince couldn't decide which sex, symbol or pseudonym would represent him best throughout his career; and even The Beatles had a go at it with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The point is, these were all identifiable and established artists at the time they metamorphosed from caterpillar to butterfly to questionable asexual-entities (The Beatles excluded); Interpol's Paul Banks, however, is as anonymous a frontman as you can get, saying very little during performances and to the press, remaining veiled behind his sonorous vocal and abstract lyricism.

This has suited his — and the band's — status as apparitions on the margins of the mainstream, especially now that knock-offs Editors have commercially outstripped them. Now, Banks' debut solo effort as Julian Plenti also adopts a mysterious mantle. Julian Plenti is Skyscraper swells with the same brooding force that has made Interpol an at times compelling listen, but adds a twist of his own.

From the opening swirls of the Numan-esque 'Only If You Run', to the awkward electronic blips that are laden throughout the ever-adjusting pace of 'Fun That We Had', Banks — even if unclear in direction — is still as urgent and disturbing as ever. He achieves this, in part, with a mastery of contrast. Expansive and operatic features such as the strings in 'Skyscraper' are countered by the climactic and rapacious industrial rhythm of 'Games For Days'. But there is a softer side to this alter ego: the pulsating piano-led detail that undulates through 'Madrid Song' and the steady thrum of 'On The Esplanade' touch on a sound and sentiment that has perhaps until now been an unexplored aspect of Banks' creativity.

In orchestrating . . . Skyscraper, Banks has continued to engender that which he helped create in Interpol: a strange, incomprehensible animal of some shadowy grace. The alter ego is, by its very nature, intriguing yet dispensable; but what has been created by Paul Banks is ultimately captivating, and makes for an original listen.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.