For the last six years, being an Interpol fan has had quite the capacity for frustration; an issue not uncommon with bands who debut with albums as staggering as Turn On the Bright Lights. Antics proved to be a departure of sorts, with a bit of a poppier sound that while with arguably inferior songwriting, was still a good album in its own right. The band seemingly tried to marry the styles with Our Love to Admire, though to be honest, I'm not really sure what that album was supposed to be (I'm not even sure the band themselves were). All this while, the fans were largely divided into camps of those waiting for an album to at least meet their first in terms of quality, and those who chose to embrace their new material as simply being different. Now that the group has finally followed up Our Love to Admire's confused mess with this self-titled release, there are a number of qualities that may please both parties - it still finds the band trying to broaden their range, though the experiments are far less jarring this time around - but it still isn't as strong as some might have hoped for, and with the departure of fan favorite Carlos Dengler, it's debatable whether or not they'll continue in this direction.
Probably the most noticeable thing about Interpol is that it's very consistent; the different moods and songwriting styles are blended together very well, for example the slow, brooding build-up of songs like Lights or All of the Ways compared to the more lively Summer Well and lead single Barricade. One can't help but imagine that this dynamic was what the band was going for on the last album, and it's very assuring to see how they are able to nail it here. Right from the get-go with Success and Memory Serves, it's clear that the dark atmosphere of the band's earlier work is in tact, but even more importantly is that the contrasting relationship of the instruments is back. One of the best things about Bright Lights was how the two guitarists, vocalist Paul Banks and Daniel Kessler, would play two equally moody but different parts, with Dengler's energetic, almost funky bass giving sharp contrast to both. Dengler sounds great on Success, and Memory's looming tremolo picking sounds even better with the somber guitar and bass behind it, and Banks' vocals (along with the backing harmonization) go off in their own direction as well.
There are a few tricks thrown in, particularly with the keyboards and overpowering arrangements, something that the band had tried on their last outing with mixed results. The arrangements woven into Always Malaise (The Man I Am) and All of the Ways make the songs sound absolutely huge, giving a massively effective peak to the former and a very sinister feel to the latter. These don't feel like superfluous or desperate additions either; even when Banks starts singing in Spanish on closer The Undoing it still seems genuine and doesn't come across as gimmicky or awkward.
The biggest issue here is that with as well as everything blends together, the tracks have considerably less opportunity to stand out. While this is easily the band's most cohesive effort since their debut, the tracks work better as a whole than by themselves, particularly some of the songs where the writing isn't quite as sharp. Lights, which the band released a few months back, does a great job establishing a build-up, but before long it feels like it's running in place, and it never really goes anywhere - the ghost of a beat kicks in after a while, but this is literally all that changes throughout the song's second half. Summer Well and Barricade also seem to follow very similar formulas with their verses, particularly in the pairing of the vocal patterns and guitars, which makes each track feel, while entertaining, somewhat predictable. The energy in these more upbeat tracks is a bit lacking as well - songs like Slow Hands and Say Hello to the Angels were moody and dark, but they were exceedingly spirited, and frankly they fucking rocked! These songs on the other hand have the mood down, but the balance with the fervor isn't quite together.
This is certainly not a flawless record, but it takes the ideas from their last album and puts them to far better use, and in the very least stands up to Antics with its consistency and assured nature. For the first time in a long while, it feels like the band really has a handle on where they want to take their sound, and that is probably Interpol's greatest strength.