Every so often, an album comes along that sparks a bit of interest, goes unnoticed for a spell and then, for some reason, is suddenly everywhere. The full-length debut from Interpol is one of those records, and for good reason. Turn On The Bright Lights (Matador) is everything post-modern, no-wave, synth-rock should be.
The name Interpol lends pseudo-European credibility synonymous with depressive art rock to this band of international misfits from the trendy side of New York City. However, the only thing trendy here are some snazzy vintage suits. Trends had nothing to do with the band's successful UK tours or the fact that Interpol has emerged from obscurity without assistance from a major record label.
Not to be confused with their garage-dwelling brethren, the Strokes, or anybody else from the suddenly hip New York scene, Interpol has fashioned a niche for itself in a fickle pop music world by forsaking traditional rock sounds and opting for melancholy, synthesizer-laden anthems.
The legions of shoe-gazers left heartbroken by the demise of Ian Curtis of Joy Division nearly 20 years ago have found a savior in Paul Banks (guitar/vocals), who is reminiscent of Curtis without sounding like a rip-off. And while the album's sound pays homage to Joy Division and Depeche Mode, there is more here than a few superficial, well-masked '80s nostalgia tunes.
The opening track, "Untitled," sets the mood for the entire album with sparse guitar work flawlessly complementing dreamy synthesizers, all perfectly balanced by focused and purposeful vocals from Banks. Drummer Samuel Fogarino uses groove-heavy patterns highlighted by snare and high hat backbeats that weave in and out of instrumental pockets of brilliance. One particularly endearing track, "Hands Away," incorporates a fragile guitar theme combined with cathartic vocals. The mood sways to hopeless as the musical theme is enhanced by angelic synth tones, leaving a haunting sensation as the guitar gently ends on a minor downstroke.
But there is more than gray skies and self-loathing in these tracks. The frailty is often broken by Blondie-esque bass runs and screeching guitars. The genius here is in the perfect melding of the group's unique parts. With such an impressive debut, one wonders where the band will go next. Given the opportunity and freedom to explore, Interpol could yield musical returns of titanic proportions.