Tuesday, 25 August 2009

2002: Turn on the Bright Lights

Interpol spawned a slew of imitators in the 00s; that they haven't received more credit for their influence is probably due to the fact that most of the copy-cats ranged from merely half-decent (Bloc Party, She Wants Revenge) to actually terrible (Editors, White Lies). Even Interpol started to sound like a poor imitation of themselves towards the end of the decade.

Okay, so most of the lyrics make no sense. Some are downright terrible, notably the now-infamous line: 'Her stories are boring and stuff / She's always calling my bluff.' What was great about Turn on the Bright Lights, though, was that it was a rock record with little of the bluster associated with that concept: typically, 'meaningful' storytelling lyrics attached to boisterous, balls-out instrumentation. There was nothing remotely shambolic here. The slick, suited look of Paul Banks and co. matched their music to a tee: a neurotically tight rhythm section, mostly clean guitars, and unassuming vocals. Listening to 'Obstacle 1' again, the word syncopated doesn't do the verses justice: drums, bass, and guitar each seem to work frantically to fill every available space in the sonic meter, and yet it all combines to sound effortlessly classy.

Some complain, partly for these reasons, that Interpol are boring, that the songs lack emotion. I say if you're looking for hearts on sleeves, you're missing the point of the record. For me, listening to this album reminded me of hearing Young Marble Giants' seminal Colossal Youth for the first time: a masterclass in sparse, minimalist post-punk, not to mention one of the finest debuts of its era.

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