by Chris Hatch
Interpol’s 2002 debut, Turn On The Bright Lights, was a landmark indie album for so many reasons. Taking the bleak, post-punk sensibilities of the likes of Bauhaus and Joy Division, dressing it up (literally) in the steadfast, formal aesthetic of Kraftwerk, and taking it for a night out in the darkest parts of NYC – it was an album that owed so much to the mid/late-80s indie scene, and yet it stood alone as something totally fresh.
Two years on from the success of Bright Lights, Interpol emerged again from the shadows with their follow up album, Antics – still sunken-eyed, still adorned in their sharp suits, and still plundering the back catalogues of those old goth and new-wave bands… only this time they were sharper, heavier, and crucially, more focused.
Antics saw them continue to harness the moody, modern-noir, indie rock sound they had become synonymous with – Daniel Kessler and Paul Banks’ icily cold guitars fight with each other, while Carlos D’s subtly complex bass lines propel the album along. But unlike their debut, Antics wastes less time getting to the point – the choruses are more immediate, the songs less complex and contemplative, and the whole thing more driven. This time around they maybe owed more to the imposing, Brutalist architectural movement than to the stark minimalism of their previous outing; the black, white, and red colour motif of their debut album once again bleeds through into both the artwork, and the mood of the record – but this time it’s a towering, glass-shattering white that is the strongest colour.
Paul Banks’ vocal delivery is perhaps the most evocative element of the album. Taking on a detached, cold persona, his monotone sounds like some kind of mildly sociopathic Bret Easton Ellis anti-hero – when he sings with any kind of emotion, it’s usually aggression. And lyrically it’s not much cuter – love songs are delivered as threats, compliments come soaked in jealousy, and even the most placid of lines seem to have an air of menace simmering away under them. Song titles like Evil, Public Pervert, and Not Even Jail hint at a deviance that Banks seems to channel unnervingly well, his band creating creeping, climbing crescendos that prop up his faintly homicidal songwriting.
There are still the spacious, slow building moments that helped grow the tension on Bright Lights, but – in general – the tracks are meatier, and Carlos D’s disco-style bass lines thaw out any cold spots. This more direct approach results in singles that pack a heavier punch – Evil builds to a tense, almost-out-of-tune chorus, Slow Hands bounces along in the kind of punk-funk fashion that the likes of !!!, The Rapture, and Franz Ferdinand would later become well known for, while Narc and C’mere find skeletal, staccato guitars flung along feverishly by Sam Fogarino’s drumming.
The difficult second album cliche wasn’t something that was ever associated with Interpol – they had a sound that existed outside of any fad or phase, and had an almost timeless quality – but even so, Antics quashed any fears that the New York gloom-merchants would be one album wonders. 15 years on, it’s an album that still holds up, and the recently announced special edition anniversary vinyl is a beautiful reminder of just how important a band Interpol were, and still are.
Secret Meeting score: 88