Thursday, 21 July 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #15 Classic Album: Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

Written 21st July 2011:

Classic Album: Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

Year of Release: 2002

The Band: Paul Banks (Lead Vocals, guitar), Dan Kessler (lead guitar, backing vocals), Carlos D (bass), Sam Fogarino (drums)

So today's classic album, comes from another band that hails from New York, which at-the-time of the album’s release was possibly at the centre of the Indie music map after The Strokes came, conquered and re-juvenated the guitar garage-rock scene in 2001 with their debut album 'Is This It?' (which I may also do a classic review for at some point). Following closely in their footsteps in 2002 was this debut effort from Interpol and with the band hailing from the same city, they were already early anticipated comparisons to The Strokes, but if the truth be told this album is a whole different animal completely to 'Is This It?' which hopefully this review will highlight, but I will draw at least one striking similarity with the aforementioned band in the conclusion of this review.
Turn on the Bright Lights

1. Untitled
2. Obstacle 1
3. NYC
4. PDA
5. Say Hello to the Angels
6. Hands Away
7. Obstacle 2
8. Stella was a diver and she was always down
9. Roland
10. The New
11. Leif Erikson

So 'Untitled' gets 'Turn on the Bright Lights' off to a steady start with its tingling-like guitar riff, slowly becoming accompanied by bass player at the time Carlos D (great name huh?!), who has previously left the band, rhythmic bass line joins and this is certainly not the last time we get this steadily built-up combination of guitars and bass on this album, before lead-singer and guitarist Paul Bank's haunting-like voice first surfaces on the album about 90 seconds into it. It's a slow-pace of an opening track but the steadily built layered sound of guitars and bass indicate that we're only getting warmed-up here. Second track 'Obstacle 1' confirms this assumption with sharp-angular guitars between Paul and lead guitarist Dan Kessler both battling hard for the listener’s attention and the pace of the album instantly picks up while still continuing with the dark and menacing themes set throughout this record. We're next then slowed-down again by 'NYC' with its haunting guitar-riff throughout and Paul's Goth-like vocals, but this is actually a complement to the track, as this is real 'hair-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck' stuff already and only by the third track of the album! The track continues as we hear Paul's bleak and honest views of that, at the time and possibly still, famous musical Capital in The States and how he had become disillusioned by it after spending so many years growing up there.

'PDA' again moves the album up a few gears with another fast, frenetic guitar-driven track to catch the listener’s attention. Paul’s lyrics hint at a tongue-in-cheek poke of a person’s possible relationship with a psychiatrist with lines such as “You’re so cute when you’re sedated” and “We have 200 couches when you can sleep tight, sleep right”. If the album has not hit top-gear by the end of this track we’re certainly start speeding towards it with 'Say Hello to the Angels'. The track starts with guitars steadily building for the opening 45 seconds or so before another one of Carlos D's, now famed, and perfectly timed bass-playing rhythms carries the track to a whole new-level. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album especially when Paul is effortlessly reeling of lyrics "On silent parts, the parts that birds love, I know there is such a place..."

'Hands Away' really slows the tempo of the album down again, after the last rollercoaster of a track. Another track on the album that is really built up steadily with guitar riffs and bass, Paul's vocals are kept quite minimal on this track and it almost stands as an instrumental track for the record, but to dismiss it for just simply being an instrumental would be a mistake by the listener in my opinion. Next we have 'Obstacle 2', a bit more of a slowed down affair than its earlier relation ‘Obstacle 1’. Paul’s vocals in particular are very much more distinct on this track than any other previously.

As Paul next announces "This next one is called 'Stella was a diver and she was always down', a song-title which I'll let the listener decide it's unglamorous way-of-life meaning behind. This for me is simply the stand-out track on an album which has already featured some big-hitting guitar tracks on it.  Again another track laced with moody, tingling guitar rhythms and a thunderous, military-like drumming rhythm throughout by drummer Sam Fogarino, this track has a real epic, yet at the same time almost-tragic-like feel to it, yet it seems to surprisingly merge both elements so well. I don't think I'm doing this track justice with my comments here, but you'll see what I mean when you hear it and I’ll say that I think most listeners will be gripped from start to finish throughout upon first hearing it.  With a sharp-edgy riff opening it ‘Roland’ launches into a frantic, pogoing effort with a nice distant-like affect used here on Paul’s vocals to complement it.

‘The New’ starts off with a simplistic guitar opening and just steadily plods along inoffensively to the listener. It builds to a nice melodic chorus and flows comfortably for the first two verses before the now familiar darker-tone of this album takes over in the more complex-side of the second half of this track, with a savage guitar riff becoming exposed throughout this part of it. Album closer ‘Leif Erikson’ is but of course another slowed-down, dark and moody affair, yet this really sums up the sound and mood that the band clearly set out to achieve with this debut record and although that may sound like a negative approach for an album, I really believe this is a record you should give several listens too, to fully appreciate it’s true charms and hidden-depths.

So in summary of re-visiting an album that is now coming up to 10-years old how do I still rate it? I'll be honest and admit that I've only recently got into Interpol myself over the last few years or so and I think if I did buy the album at its time of release (something I really wish I had done now to be honest!) I think I may have overlooked it at somewhat at the time, especially in the shadow of The Strokes back then, and possibly given this album a still respectable 8 Obstacles out of 10 back in 2002.

However, as I bought this album afresh with no major expectations at the time and was thinking "Yeah I'll give this a spin and see what Interpol are like then…." I soon found myself coming back to this record time and time again on a regular basis and quickly found myself hooked on its dark-brooding songs interspersed with fast-archaic guitar tracks. I had at last found another new obsession with a band from New York! I really still believe this album holds up strong even today and I’m even going to award it an unprecedented 10 'Stella’s' out of 10 for a listen by even today's guitar-record standards. For me this is an album that simply stands up and won't let itself be ignored! It even gets better with each subsequent listen thereafter, with a quick listen again this morning re-confirming this for me.

While I commented in my 2nd paragraph that this album followed shortly in the footsteps of The Strokes and was a very different sounding album to 'Is This It?', the one striking similarity that I think that makes both band's comparable, apart from both hailing from New York, is that they have both successfully defined a guitar sound and made it their own with their debut albums and then subsequently followed their debut albums up with another 3 great albums each. This is without question for me an album fans of bands like The Smiths, possibly Oasis, even The Cure and of course The Strokes must have in their record collection! You may find, like me, you'll soon develop an (un)healthy obsession for the band and will be inclined to pick up their subsequent follow-up albums 'Antics', 'Our Love to Admire' and the recently released eponymously titled 'Interpol' all of which I would also recommend, but for me this debut effort is still the definitive Interpol record!

Turning on the Bright Lights

Track 2 - Obstacle 1

Track 5 - 'Say Hello to the Angels' (Live at Brixton Academy 2010)

Track 8 - 'Stella was a diver and she was always down' (Live in 2002)

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