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Interpol Iain Moffat , September 17th, 2010 14:11

The House Of Love, Ride, Suede... sadly, there are all too many examples of great guitar hopes writing themselves into a corner with vaguely indecent haste, and there have unquestionably been times when it felt as if Interpol had met a similar fate. Suitably tragic, that, really, when you consider what a breath of fresh air they were when they first showed up, fanfare-free and sufficiently indie to be releasing on a Chemikal Underground offshoot, and, while they might have purported themselves with the sharp tailoring that was de rigeur for New York combos at the time, they also sported a then-unique revivalist fondness for the Big Coated chills of twenty years earlier. Is there still any place for them in an age when little-label alumni are facing diminishing commercial returns everywhere and newer listeners already have Editors and White Lies album to nestle in their bosoms?

Well, they've seldom pushed the boat out lyrically here, and in a year of absurdly quotable albums, from Everything Everything and Villagers to LCD Soundsystem and Tinie Tempah, it seems especially unlikely that the thoughts of Paul Banks are going to be scrawled across school books the way that those of his inspirations were. 'Safe Without' is a particularly egregious offender, pinning its hopes on what might generously be termed a circular minimalism (i.e. quoting the title over and over and over. And over.), and, elsewhere, there's a heavy conflation of ambiguity with mystery: Is 'Memory Serves' really about domestic violence (the line “it would be no price to pay / hit me again” might suggest so, but it's awkwardly inconclusive in this context)? What are the shared and unshared secrets that ‘Success’ refers to? And why on earth would anyone beg, as happens in 'Lights', “please police me”? There's something to be said for leaving out the details, perhaps, but there could scarcely be less to go on here.

Bearing that in mind, it's probably fortunate that the actual pop instincts on show here are as smart as they are. Banks' vocals, for all his nonsense, are insistent, imbuing proceedings with the necessary air of urgency, and he and Daniel Kessler are providing some of the most sterling guitar work they've produced in a long time. Genuinely intriguingly, too, there are several occasions on this album that indicate that, while its eponymous nature might be redolent of a back-to-basics approach, they're actually attempting to evolve beyond those original Joy Division signifiers and on to inviting comparison to shortly-pre Power, Corruption New Order; a baby step, perhaps, but a substantial one in its own way too. 'Summer Well', for instance, brings keyboards to the fore and, while just short of utterly danceable, is unusually lissom, thanks in no part to the departing Carlos D's spry bass, while 'Always Malaise (The Man I Am)' relies on a moody metronomy that actually affords its sentiments a caustic, claustrophobic air.

And then there's the tremendous triptych at the climax to contend with, which is where Interpol finally thoroughly shine. 'Try It On' is gripped by a wholly sing-like-no-one's-listening performance that benefits from a spot of strategic swearing and hurls itself headlong into a maelstrom of hypnotised harmonies, grinding guitar desperation and episodic upper-range synth blips. These hurtle stratospherically towards 'All Of The Ways', a masterclass in minor chord manipulation that may be the closest they've ever come to bona fide shoegazing (or, indeed, to investing in some kettle drums. Immense!), which in turn bleeds entirely into 'The Undoing', which boasts not only a certain pseudo-brassy continental melancholy but even a sharp blast of Hispanic that clutches the attention and already has puzzled monolinguals scurrying online for assistance. They've cut it terribly fine, mind, but, ultimately, Interpol have still just about come up with sufficient to remain worthy of investigation, and, at this stage, that might yet be enough...