Interpol have always seemed like a cross between the Beach Boys and the Brothers Grimm, a cosmopolitan cocktail of youth and naïveté. But though they specialize in tight melodies and soft harmonies wrapped around lyrics about clubbing, their songs are often secret harbingers of despair. Listening to a well-crafted Interpol song (say, “Evil,” off 2004’s Antics) is like walking a beach at midnight or reading “Hansel and Gretel”—it evokes faint nostalgia and the hidden menace of gingerbread homes.
That the New York City quartet has become as famous for their fashion as for their songs is unavoidable. They dress like stylized goths, with three-piece suits and pocket watches evocative of smoking rooms and Victorian fairy tales. It’s a uniform look, but Interpol’s third album (and first for a major) is thematically all over the place. Our Love to Admire opens with the familiar dirge “Pioneer to the Falls,” frontman Paul Banks’s deep voice (always in sharp relief to his baby face) intoning “the soul can wait” like an exhausted, hedonistic plea. It’s a gorgeous opener that once again sinks you into Interpol’s miasma. But instead of the promised treatise on burnout, the boys quickly retreat back into romantic platitudes—the tone on single “Heinrich Maneuver” (either Heine or Himmler; I hope the former) is foreboding enough, but disconnected from lyrics like “Today my heart sings.”
“Nobody told you that I could just waltz through and shake up your style,” Banks warns
on “Wrecking Ball”—it’s a perfect declaration of intent from Interpol, but he recites the words with a tired moan, and the tossed-off “just” gives his warning a lazy indifference. Somehow the band manages to sound insincere and gorgeous at the same time. It’s hard not to love the album and—like watching a sexy model walk down the runway—still feel a bit let down when they reach the end of the catwalk. When focused on careening relationships and late-night regrets, Interpol’s music is a quiet ode to Bleecker Street at 4 a.m., or a deserted nightclub. Even at
Our Love‘s emptiest, there’s an impossible disconnect that Beckett might lust over—meaningless words (“You wear those shoes like a dove”) to express a meaningless moment. Like a furtive glance in a bar. In Interpol’s hands, even their most diffident moments are elegiac.
Interpol play Madison Square Garden September 14, thegarden.com
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 3, 2007