Key Tracks: “All the Rage Back Home” “Everything is Wrong”
This album is refreshing, in the sense that waking up to find a glass of tepid tap water on your nightstand at noon on a Sunday is ‘refreshing.’ Old Interpol isn’t back – even literally, as Carlos D’s departure has left the band a trio – but this album is the closest they’ve come to vintage Interpol in a decade.
“El Pintor” is both an anagram for “Interpol” and Spanish for “the painter.” Both titles fit – this is an album worthy of being self-titled, if they hadn’t already done that on their murky 2010 album. And painting – making something from nothing. The band has basically re-kickstarted themselves; Paul Banks absorbed the bass parts, and they’ve returned to a tighter and denser sound. They’ve made the best out of what was becoming a bad situation – a legacy of people saying “Well, their first two albums were great…” The trio sounds like they’ve shelved some ideas and put “Our Love to Desire” and “Interpol” behind them. To put it more simply, Interpol has not, as you would exactly expect, been affected by critics at all.
Interpol isn’t doing any flexing here. There’s nothing extravagant – no time for that. “El Pintor” is just 40 minutes long. They trimmed everything they could, leaving just the tight, existential journey that was their first two albums. “El Pintor” is structured phenomenally well, with blast after blast. “Interpol” ended on two huge duds, but there’s none of that on “El Pintor.” All ten songs are in the same vein, guitar-heavy proto-post-punk that’s fueled equally by small garages and big cities. Interpol’s tightness in their writing and production has been one of their strongest points in the past, and it is again here.
The album’s best quality may also be it’s most immediate fault. Where “Our Love to Admire” and “Interpol” were insufficient Interpol albums, they did provide some highly listenable songs – “No I in Threesome,” “The Heinrich Maneuver” and “the Lighthouse” from the former, “Barricade” and “Lights” from the latter. There aren’t any songs that demand immediate re-listens on “El Pintor.” It’s an interesting imbalance, that exists within Interpol, where their better albums work well as a whole and and don’t have more standout songs. “El Pintor” works as a whole, and it’s a little tough to just causally listen to any track. But at the same time, it makes it such a stronger album. I listen to “Barricade” all the time, but I’ll gladly say “El Pintor” is a better album. This imbalance exists on their still classic first two albums, “Turn On the Bright Lights” and “Antics.” The better an Interpol album is, the tougher it is to digest.
But, look, so much of reviewing any type of media is comparing it to something done before. And that’s usually not fair to the thing being reviewed. So let’s talk about what makes “El Pintor” subtly, but radically different from any other Interpol album – optimism. It isn’t outward, but it is noticeable. The band is still singing gloom and doom, but it’s a new light – gloom and doom has an end. Even the excellently-titled “Everything is Wrong” has an optimistic streak. It doesn’t overwhelm the album; don’t think the band is suddenly sunshine and fresh fruit, “El Pintor” is still dark and complex. But there’s a slight optimistic streak that’s never existed in the band before.
“El Pintor” might not quite live up to it’s early predecessors, but it’s a great album in its own right. It’s never more evident than in the opening track, “All the Rage Back Home,” which starts with a typical Interpol-ly broody intro before kicking into a pseudo-club beat. It’s unexpected – way unexpected – but it all works. And as much as I, personally, have enjoyed every Interpol album almost equally, it’s refreshing to say that it’s working. Interpol have adjusted to new circumstances remarkably well. They seem to be doing well. They seem happy, or, at least, content.
If you like this, try: the Strokes kinda-comeback album, “Comedown Machine.” “Angles” was garbage so that’s their true comeback.
-By Andrew McNally