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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.