For their sixth studio album, Marauder, Interpol brought in an outside producer for the first time in over a decade. Dave Fridmann, best known for his work with Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips, encouraged the New York trio to commit their music to analog tape by recording over each previous take in a process frontman Paul Banks has referred to as “destructive recording.” The result is an album with the urgent, organic feel of a live performance.
Though Interpol’s music has leaned more heavily on a guitar-driven sound since founding member and bassist Carlos Dengler left the band in 2010, the rhythm section still plays an integral role on Marauder. Sam Fogarino’s drums often counterbalance Daniel Kessler’s alternatingly raspy and squealing lead guitar riffs to create a thrillingly unwieldy sound that—like the impulse-driven characters at the heart of these songs—threatens to careen out of control.
The band takes a more upbeat musical approach here than usual, but the album’s chugging rhythms and lively tempos belie some rather bleak lyrical content. Thematically, Marauder focuses on both the thrill and threat posed by an unbridled id, with the titular reckless persona—described by Banks as an unhinged, pernicious facet of his own personality—resurfacing throughout.
On “Stay in Touch,” Fogarino’s syncopated drumming adds an off-kilter beat to the song’s craggy guitar riff, evoking a sense of sonic instability as Banks sings of the unpredictable, nefarious marauder, who’s described here as someone who breaks bonds and “negates hope.” And the album’s lead single, “The Rover,” goes a step further by concocting an enigmatically charismatic figure whose threat is even more insidious, with Banks delivering this origin story of a cult leader in a heavily reverbed Ozzy Osbourne-esque wail.
Such nihilism recurs at different times throughout the album: “If You Really Love Nothing” asserts that survival in the modern world requires cultivating and maintaining a set of illusions, while “Flight of Fancy” touches on desperately reaching out into emptiness “until that reaching out feels empty too.” The band also explores the destructive power of technology: “Party’s Over” finds Banks lamenting that the voyeuristic undercurrent of social media serves to “enhance my bad intentions,” while “Surveillance” deals in the manipulation of our perception of reality by the powers that be.
Interpol, however, doesn’t belabor such gloominess. Marauder’s cover art depicts Elliot Richardson, the former U.S. Attorney General who stood up to Richard Nixon, and Banks’s fascination with how a vitriolic cult of personality can sway the masses is timely, but the album isn’t an overtly political one, couching as it does big political questions in fiercely personal terms.
On songs like “Mountain Child” and “The Weekend,” Marauder is content to bask in the magic of profound ephemeral moments. And whether through the shoegaze bent of “Surveillance” or the slacker-rock overtones of “It Probably Matters,” Interpol offers moments of even-keeled, contemplative atmospherics. These measured musical and lyrical tangents complement more than contrast the album’s thematic focus on reckless impulsivity. Rather than simply dwelling on the potential for ruin, the band acknowledges the euphoria that can greet those who follow their whims, resulting in an album that crackles with the energy of embracing life’s unpredictable turns.