Interpol: too moody for prime time? Maybe. But damn it all to hell, I like moody. So it's a good thing indeed that Antics (Matador), the highly anticipated sophomore effort from this intriguing New York band, represents less of a value shift than a continuation of the atmospheric soundscapes and brooding lyrical moods first expressed on the band's breathtaking 2002 debut, Turn on the Bright Lights. The hymnal opener, "Next Exit," is a gloriously brash and defiant statement of purpose. "Evil" follows, bearing a ferocious tension-and-release dynamic coupled with singer Paul Banks' usual flair for high drama ("Rosemary, heaven restores you in life"). The melodies overall are much more developed on Antics, a progression which lends a welcome buoyancy to subject matter that hovers just a few inches above desperation. The songwriting, though deeply emotional, is also literate and sardonic, resulting in complex and challenging constructions that rattle the rib cage while caressing the cortex. These ten troubling vignettes may be thick with references to isolation and frustration, but within each can also be found a tiny kernel of hope, a plea for communion. -- Mike Corrigan
Around the Sun TWO STARS
Unlike a lot of my fellow R.E.M.-loving friends, I have stuck with these guys through all the years. But after listening to their latest CD, I'm ready to give up. It's actually become very clear: This isn't R.E.M. anymore. After 1996's underrated
New Adventures in Hi-Fi (one of their best records), drummer Bill Berry left the band for health reasons. That was really the last R.E.M. album. They should call this band the Michael Stipe Project.
Around the Sun is their third original album since Berry's departure, and they keep getting worse. The Michael Stipe Project is a decent band, but it's no R.E.M. "The Outsiders," with rapper Q-Tip, is a cool song, and "Final Straw" is a somewhat affecting take on America under the Patriot Act.
But these songs are too mellow -- nothing like "Orange Crush" here -- and they're filled with drum machines and synthesizers?! The other founding members, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, are barely audible. Without them powering this band, Stipe's songs are pretentious and boring. -- Ted S. McGregor Jr.