New Music: Interpol – El Pintor

Interpol - El Pintor

InterpolEl Pintor //

3.5-BamsTop Tracks: “All the Rage Back Home”
“Ancient Ways”
“Tidal Wave”

Album Highlights: As indie music continues to draw more and more from the electronic revolution that dominates the current landscape, New York post-punk revivalists Interpol have quietly fallen into veteran status while still doing it their own way. But that doesn’t mean things haven’t changed for frontman Paul Banks and his bandmates. Shortly after recording its fourth full-length, self-titled album, the band announced the departure of founding bassist Carlos Dengler. Reforming as a three-piece with Banks taking over on bass and working with well-known British producer and mix engineer Alan Moulder (Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Nine Inch Nails), the group’s fifth studio effort El Pintor — the title serves as an anagram of the band’s name — also features guest appearances from Brandon Curtis of Secret Machines, former Beck keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Rob Moose of Bon Iver. And though the four years between albums stands as the longest gap to date for the band, what we hear on the 10-track LP off of Matador Records, which includes three bonus tracks via iTunes (“The Depths”) as well as Target (“Malfeasance” and a live version of “Slow Hands” from the Brixton Academy in London) after being recorded at NYC’s Electric Lady Studios and Atomic Sound, proves to be well worth the wait.

From opening rocker “All the Rage Back Home,” it’s clear that there’s still plenty of chemistry between Banks (vocals, guitar, bass, production), Daniel Kessler (guitar, piano, production) and Sam Fogarino (drums, percussion, production) since receiving critical acclaim for their 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights and their 2004 follow-up Antics. Punctuated by Kessler’s frenetic, yet exquisite riffs, the album’s lead single debuted at No. 37 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart last month before more recently ascending to No. 31. And as one of the best offerings we’ve heard from Interpol in quite some time, it’s undeniably deserving of such applause.

That’s not to say that the rest of El Pintor doesn’t warrant any as well, however. Rather, it boasts some other outstanding cuts, including the guitar-driven “Anywhere,” in which Banks dreams of escaping to far-away places with lyrics like “The ocean … I could go anywhere! I could go anywhere!” There’s even the ensuing “Same Town, New Story,” which sounds like nothing the band has ever written before — an exciting proposition for any longtime Interpol fan. With three more gems (“Ancient Ways,” “Tidal Wave” and “Twice As Hard”) rounding things out, El Pintor holds up from start to finish and even more, is one that Banks, Kessler and Fogarino can be proud to call their own.

Album Lowlight: There is something that remains uniquely distinct about Interpol’s sound, and while that most often has worked in their favor, you could certainly argue that their sound hasn’t evolved by leaps and bounds since Turn on the Bright Lights. At the same time, that doesn’t mean what the band brings to the table here doesn’t work. What’s impressive about Interpol is that despite the potential sonic limitations they face, each album fits suitably within the context of their overall body of work. Interpol may never top the praise and success they received in the early 2000s, but El Pintor gives us a good reason to remember why they remain an important fixture in today’s indie rock scene.

Takeaway: It will be interesting to see what comes of Interpol’s lineup after they tour this fall in the U.S. and this winter in Europe. Will their new three-piece setup in the studio work for the long haul, or will they bring a new bassist on full time and allow Banks to return to solely his rhythm guitar duties? For as integral as Dengler was to the band’s songwriting process and its public image, you wouldn’t even know on El Pintor that he’s no longer playing in the band — a true testament to the job Banks has done in filling those shoes for at least the time being.

~Josh Herwitt


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE these guys! was introduced awhile back and I absolutely can’t get enough:)

  2. Reblogged this on settleyourheartout.

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