Since the early 2000s, New York’s downtown music scene has gone in and out of vogue, but something about Interpol has always stood out—and not just the fact that they keep putting out albums, unlike some of their contemporaries who have more or less disappeared. In retrospect, the band survived the Strokes’ disappointing flameout because, quite frankly, they didn’t seem like a fad. Unlike the Virgins, they don’t sprawl alongside models in fashion editorials. Instead, they’ve always seemed more interested in their music.
Interpol writes obstinately morose songs about how much love and life in the city suck. Their new self-titled album, for example, opens with a song ironically called “Success,” which is about exactly the opposite. It sounds like it’s about a romance gone awry—or maybe it’s about death (it’s always hard to tell with an Interpol song).
Despite the downbeat subject matter, though, Interpol makes some very catchy music. The band has always had a way of turning heartbreak into heart-pounding rock songs, whether it’s the incessant guitar hook on “PDA” or Banks’s shouting “You should be in my space/You should be in my life” on “Narc,” from their underrated second album, Antics—a desperate cry for help that was as alarming as it was thrilling. The standout track here is the lead single “Barricade,” which follows the same basic formula as those songs: layered guitars, a repetitive hook, and Banks loudly singing the chorus like a down-and-out guy who needs to be heard.
But that’s about as exciting as Interpol, probably their slowest album to date, ever gets. For every memorable moment like “Lights” or “Summer Well,” there’s also “Memory Serves” or “Always Malaise (The Man I Am)”—drawn-out, dreary tracks with some of the most awkward-sounding titles in a career filled with awkward titles. Interpol may have mastered their template, but it’s starting to feel a little tired. Interpol may not be quite self-parody, but it’s also not the sort of thing that’s going to make them hip again anytime soon. Not that they would even care.