There’s a pretty big soft spot in our hearts for Interpol thanks largely to the brilliance of some of the tracks from their 2nd studio album, Antics, released back in 2004. Songs like Next Exit, Evil and Slow Hands became instant alt-rock classics almost as soon as they broke, dominating airplay on MTV at the time and launching the band in a significant way. However, it’s been a while since we’ve seen them at their best, but in their latest record, El Pinter, they’re as close as they’ve ever been since then.
Released on the 5th September 2015 on Matador and Soft Limit records, it starts out with the brilliantly with opening track All The Rage Back Home, which kicks off with a slow intro with a reverb laced electric guitar riff and Paul Banks’ unmistakable vocals. This breaks out into the pace of the single, driving the song through with impressive guitar, a solid drum framework and some cool vocal effects, which you can take a listen to with the video below.
There’s a lot of comparable elements on the album to Wintersleep’s New Inheritors, especially in the setup of the guitar sound throughout. It’s something that becomes apparent from the first few string strikes on My Desire, the second track from the record, and it goes on to be increasingly true for large portions of the tracks. It’s not meant as a negative by the way, New Inheritors is a great album, and El Pintor mirrors this overall view for the most part.
On the other hand, it’s easy to listen to the band’s fifth album and be a little taken aback by the similarity of some of the tracks, and it’s definitely true that there isn’t a huge amount of significant variation in the mix. However, this makes for a tightly knit unit of interlinking songs that share alt-rock musical themes and Interpol’s recognisable style making it incredibly easy to listen to as a whole.
Highlights on the album include the rotating riffs on My Desire, the unwavering direction of Anywhere and the slower pace and minor beauty of Same Town, New Story. My Blue Supreme has a good chorus build keeping the album well above the water line and leading in well to the excellent Everything Is Wrong, reiterating the darker elements of the album and the clear dissatisfaction at the heart of it.
The reliance on ringing riffs on the majority of the album is a welcome dedication to no-nonsense old-school alt-rock, and where this goes missing towards the end of the record is where it begins to fades. We’re not always convinced that Banks’ vocals are high enough in the mix either, as they’re often equalised at the same level as the guitar and drum layers, blending out the contrast and losing one of the key ingredients that went in to making Next Exit, Evil and Slow Hands stand out as well as they do.
On the further downside of the equation, Interpol’s El Pintor takes a slight nose dive for us from the seventh track onwards. Breaker 1 is OK, and the addition of organ rhythms is cool enough, something we haven’t really seen much of from the band since Antics, but it goes a bit silly at times, while also falling a little flat when it should hit like a wave. Ancient Ways is all darkness without necessarily having any real impact and the vocals aren’t the best, which is also the main reason Tidal Wave doesn’t work up enough power to crash over the breakers.
The album closes out on the long winded and droning Twice As Hard, which is difficult to like if we’re honest, while still being slightly transfixing. It’s a complex beast that you might find yourself listening to in an attempt to figure it all out. It’s a disgruntled and disaffected track that speaks volumes about Interpol’s state of play and their interpretation of modern day reality, making it difficult to ignore, despite not being particularly palatable.
The negatives of the last four songs on the album may well have had an impact on our overall review, but that doesn’t stop us from listening to it all in its entirety whenever we put it on. It’s all a part of the same impressive picture, which is a rarity with modern music’s reliance on individual tracks, and that makes it a well crafted record that draws everything together pretty well.
Interpol El Pintor review: 4/5