Review: Interpol – El Pintor (2014)

“All the Rage Back Home” the lead single off of Interpol’s fifth album, El Pintor, recalls an excitement, a fevered energy that hasn’t been notably prominent in the band’s most recent releases, especially the epic and atmospheric previous effort, 2010’s self-tilted Interpol. Featuring immediate pacing and a charging hook, “All the Rage Back Home” is a reawakening; a nostalgic shiver of the surging, restless desire that was saturated in Interpol’s excellent sophomore album, Antics.

It’s been 10 years since Antics release, and now in 2014, there is a case out there that this isn’t the same Interpol anymore. Most obviously, fan-favorite bassist Carlos Dengler left the foursome band shortly after the recording of Interpol, leaving the core of drummer Sam Fogarino, guitarist Daniel Kessler and guitarist/ vocalist Paul Banks. In recent years, Banks has explored various solo projects, releasing Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper in 2009, and Banks in 2012. Both albums don’t stray too far from Interpol’s tones, sounds and themes, but they do feature an increased emphasis on samples and instrumentals. In December of 2012, Interpol reissued a 10th anniversary edition of their critically acclaimed debut, Turn on the Bright Lights. It was a nice bookend to an impressive first decade of music. In what direction do they start the next?

El Pintor is a noble beginning to the band’s next chapter. Most importantly, it’s an affirmation that Interpol still has the spark— a frustrated, intense, unmerciful spark. Tracks “My Desire” and “Breaker 1” both highlight Interpol’s mastering of the relentless, cathartic build. On “My Desire” Fogarino’s delicate drumwork shines brightly against Kessler’s entrancing melody. The combination finishes the track with an untiring, full-force charge.

Interpol has always been noted as a band with tight chemistry. With the recording of El Pintor, Banks himself took over the bass work for the departed Dengler. Having the main instrumentation for the album covered by just the three current members, El Pintor continues to strengthen a dynamic musical core. The lively cohesiveness is balanced beautifully on the spurring “My Blue Supreme.” Album closer “Twice as Hard” demonstrates a more sparing display of the instrumental jamming, but it syncs together well with Banks’ fuzzy, arching vocals.

After the departure of Dengler in 2010, mixed reviews on 2010’s self-titled release and Banks further pursuit of solo ambitions, the idea of a fifth Interpol album seemed distant at times, and, probably wouldn’t have surprised too many if it didn’t happen at all. But not only did El Pintor happen, it is a welcoming reemergence of a talented band that is still focused and passionate about crafting Interpol songs. In ways, 2010’s self-titled album– somewhat vague, vast and wandering at times– felt like it could have been an “end” album for Interpol. El Pintor, on the other hand, is an invigorating page turn into a new chapter. 12 years later, Interpol is a band that still believes in their music. And after a decade plus, that quality can be rarer than one would think.

Thoughts?

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