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If I had to come up with a pointless but customized genre bracket for Interpol, it would be something like “bleak-wave” or “gravegaze”. I say this with acute tenderness. For twenty-one years, Interpol has been making music for those who want to become sunk in the experience of experiencing little. Of the outside world, that is. Interpol is a band of internalities, of the relentless monologue that consumes and shapes the outside by filtering it through the tightly-clenched, concrete sieve of the inside. The result is a sound demarcated by its neatness and paralyzing calm, the heartbreak of its rerouted melodies and hypnotic drone.
Listening to an Interpol album has always promised an upsetting, addictive thrill, like looking into the bedroom of a serial killer and holding each of their ordinary possessions up to the light.
The Manhattan rock trio’s newest album, Marauder, doesn’t shy away from this ancestry, but perhaps clings to it too much. In Marauder, we find a sound that is unmistakably Interpol, but lacking the intensity and brilliant discomfort of their earlier work.
Much of this has to do with the mixing of the songs, if not the songs themselves. Throughout the album, the vocal is tiresomely muted, drowsy, faraway. Such a reduction of vocalist Paul Banks’ voice is almost unforgivable. Atop the signature compressed, bodyache guitar parts, you expect Banks to cut through the noise the way an attractive stranger reduces a crowd to blur. Instead, songs like “If You Really Love Nothing” are like listening to Interpol from the other side of a fish tank; dull and super-saturated with distracting echo. The mix crushes the tenor and texture of his voice, and lacking are the edges, the jagged steppes in a vocal that might otherwise allow his lyrics to throttle you.
Another bone to pick is the direction of the aforementioned lyrics. Interpol has always drawn power from the thrust of ‘en medias res’ storytelling. I’m thinking of a song like “Obstacle 2” off of Turn On The Bright Lights, which begins with the pledge: “I’m gonna pull you in close, gonna wrap you up tight, / Gonna play with the braids that you came here with tonight”. Quite literally, the lyric gives you something to hold onto. You’re at the dive bar, you’re soaked in the red light, you see this girl and you’re sure as hell gonna yank a braid.
This sort of compulsively immersive lyric appears to be banished from the landscape of Marauder, which favors an unfortunately mundane plunge into origins rather than middles. In the song “NYSMAW”, Banks yearns unconvincingly for the pre-historic and the pastoral; “We can whisper with the stars / like when the world began”. It causes me pain to reproduce this lyric in writing. With a gun to my head, I would never guess that Paul Banks is the author of such a despairingly Rupi Kaur-worthy utterance.
Other stand-out lyrics occur to me only as sad autobiographical descriptions of the album itself; “and with these inclinations, / we will design a little box you will play in”. With the exception of the brief and spectacular “Interludes” 1 & 2 (ghostly organ-synth bits zooming past you in a slur of heavy air), Marauder restricts itself to a box of watered-down Interpol sounds that should be done big and loud or discarded. By the last song, I was left craving the real Interpol of lancing guitar and a vocal that slathers with life. As Paul Banks concedes in “NYSMAW”, “that’s how you make a ghost”.
It’s not a horrible album by any means, but pales in comparison to the rest of the band’s discography to the point of becoming spectral.
By Emily Yaremchuk