When I saw that Interpol was releasing a new LP, I was far more sceptical than most. However, my apprehension proved misguided. Marauder, Interpol’s sixth studio album, in my eyes is a marked improvement from El Pintor.
There’s a lot to like; in a just world where quality music dominates the charts, songs like ‘Stay in Touch’, ‘Party’s Over’ and ‘It Probably Matters’ would have single potential. This album, as with those that have come before it, is ultimately driven by the same bouncing basslines and smooth guitar accompaniments that Interpol operate best in. Off-stage antics and rock’n’roll debauchery have certainly not diminished Paul Banks’ vocal competence, as he steers the group through the track list with veteran assuredness. He has become the ultimate safe pair of hands.
And therein lies the problem. While tracks such as ‘If You Really Love Nothing’ have arresting introductions, they then dissolve into the same second-rate Joy Division and Verve crossover that has been passed off as original content for the last five albums. There’s nothing especially objectionable about any of these songs, but gone is the meaningful, precise lyricism of Turn on the Bright Lights, that which won them the adoration of NYC’s soundscape.
The overwhelming sameness that pervades the record must in some part be attributed to its production. Producers Calbi and Freidmann have not done their due diligence in ensuring this album hits the ear as a set of distinct, crisp and powerful tracks. Instead, they’ve left areas sloppy. The songs often seem to roll themselves to the finish line, as if they’re particularly disinterested in being anything other than what we’ve heard before, as though thinking to themselves: “could end the song here, could play the same notes for another 45 seconds.” This sound, of course, is not the objection but rather its reduplication into 11 individually titled songs.
No review of this work would be complete without questioning somewhat the inclusion of two inventively titled interlude tracks: ‘Interlude 1,’ followed by ‘Interlude 2.’ While I respect the honesty of flat-out admitting that a minimum of two minutes of the album are filler, it felt like an attempt to add a layer of conceptuality and profundity to a work that lacks the foundation to do so. It becomes especially obvious that this is the intention when you take the fatuous warbling of ‘Mountain Child.’ This is an area that Banks and the crew should steer clear of on future albums. The two separate minutes of generalised groaning don’t authentically add to much and leave Interpol open to accusations of Rock’s cardinal sin, being a poseur.
None of this is to diminish what Interpol have achieved here. A good number of these tracks are very solid, listenable numbers. The same elements of Interpol’s music that have always driven the band’s output remain strong, and Matador will likely be pleased to hear that there’s some selling power in a number of these songs. Larry Fitzmaurice of Pitchfork remarked of the band in 2014 that “Interpol’s talents could be listed on one hand,” but insisted that this was not a problem in and of itself. It would only be one if the group attempted to become something that they were not. They did this and failed, and a return to their strengths has been revitalizing to an extent. Dropping the attempts at intellectual depth, an improvement in production, and a refocusing of lyricism could yield results closer in impact to the heady days of Bright Lights than has seemed possible for a long time.By Jarlath Nolan