Entertainment Music Reviews

Sunday 8 December 2019

John Meagher reviews Interpol: El Pintor

El Pintor, Interpol
El Pintor, Interpol
John Meagher

John Meagher

Interpol: El Pintor (Soft Limit)


A lot of people – this writer included – had given up on Interpol. After a brilliant debut album and a muscular follow-up full of great songs, the New York quartet went downhill very quickly.

Their last two albums were decidedly patchy efforts and while both contain flashes of former glories, they feel like reheated versions of what they had done so well before. 

Now, after a four-year hiatus, the reformed band are back with a rather fine fifth album whose title is Spanish for “The Painter” and an anagram for Interpol.

Founding member and noted bassist Carlos Denger does not appear (he was also absent on their self-titled fourth album) and it looks as though he will not be part of any  future Interpol releases either: in a recent NME interview, his erstwhile mates say they have had no contact with him. It’s a shame because his bass guitar is a key component of those first two albums. Here, his duties have been assumed by frontman Paul Banks.

Banks may not be the most remarkable of bass players, but he remains a commanding vocalist. And, where once he sounded like somebody auditioning for a Joy Division tribute band, his singing is now far less indebted to Ian Curtis. It’s a voice that’s still quite divisive though – even admirers might detect a certain neediness in his tone.

But few can fault just how energised he is on songs which are elevated above the ordinary by the wonderfully expressive guitar work of Daniel Kessler. His contribution to the cause is especially apparent on a pair of blistering tracks, ‘My Desire’ and ‘Anywhere’. They are urgent, thrilling compositions that illustrate best just where the Interpol of 2014 stand.

Unlike their so-so albums – Our Love to Admire and Interpol – the quality remains consistently high.  A middle track – ‘Everything Is Wrong’ – would make any Interpol best-of compilation.

While El Pintor may not be quite as special as debut Turn On the Bright Lights or its successor Antics, it’s far better and more cohesive than most of us might have assumed.

Key tracks: ‘Everything Is Wrong’; ‘My Desire’; ‘Anywhere’

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