Weightless, semi-erotic: Interpol in 2007

As nostalgia objects, Interpol are more fun than when they fooled a lot of us into thinking they were going to be a great band. Few kids of either sex took Duran Duran seriously — those sassy boys with impeccable makeup and two-finger synth hooks. Turns out I was the one who took Interpol too seriously. Fooled by singer/acne casualty Paul Banks’ indebtedness to Ian Curtis, I was afraid he’d die so a generation could worship lines like “She says brief things, her love’s a pony, my love’s subliminal” over rolling drums and pimples. In a Miami Herald concert review I wrote about their Ice Palace show in October 2003, I was like the Rolling Stone reporter at a Ramones concert in 1977 worried about Crosby Stills & Nash’s album sales. The kids were right: Interpol were cute. 2004’s Antics mixed the bass up high to match Banks’ poesy, which on tracks like “Evil” now reached Himalaya heights. And drummer Sam Fogarino is a Miami native — give it up, Soto! I almost did during my second show in spring 2005 when I stood like a statue in the park as a couple thousand Broward kids shouted back the words to “C’Mere.”

We had a lot of fun with Interpol in Stylus. A piece by Andrew Unterberger preserving Banks’ best bon mots was responsible for a quarter of our web traffic for years. Most fans will agree that the fun stopped on 2007’s Our Love to Admire, an album as sodden, lugubrious, and interminable in a deluxe fashion as the second side of Arcadia’s So Red the Rose but without Sting. Aligning themselves with the flailing Killers in the mustache department wiped out five years of glass table fashion magazine chic. I don’t retract my review because I haven’t wanted to relisten to the album. I can, however, confirm that there is an “I” in threesome.

The review:

Our Love to Admire
July 8, 2007

Interpol are too easily made the butt of a joke, but so what? Jokes require no explanation. Since 2002’s Turn On The Bright Lights they’ve been making us chuckle thanks to infinitesimal variations on their rumbling minor chord meaninglessness, and Our Love to Admire should inspire their biggest belly laughs yet.

The last time I heard from these guys, they were pummeling a crowd into submission with clipped versions of “Evil” and “C’mere” at a Fort Lauderdale show two years ago. The bond between audience and band was Springsteenian. I counted at least twelve guys that would have traded places with unexpectedly paunchy singer/guitarist/poet Paul Banks in a second, were it not for the presence of their girlfriends, who got off projecting their kinky reveries on Banks and his boys as if they were as cynical as the girls imagined them to be. An update of the Dave Gahan formula, I thought, and more power to Interpol for almost pulling it off. There’s a lot to be said for selling fantasies about subways being pornos and love in the kitchen with a culinary eye, especially when bassist Carlos Dengler swung his hips so becomingly and the lead guitarist was licky as trips.

A shame that Our Love to Admire won’t do much beside inspire more fan blogs devoted to Banksian poesy. A grotesque example of luxury hardened by luxury, Our Love promises as much decadence as its Econoline van spare tire cover art. When you watch Dengler and Killers frontman Brandon Flowers grow mustaches as ugly and thick as their recent music you ask yourself, “God, they can’t be this stupid.” Mortified, like countless pretentious pinups before them, at being objects of desire, they let their tempos drag and mix up their singers’ vocals. You can fill the distance between “Evil” and Our Love to Admire’s “Mammoth” with a hundred invitations to Dengler’s hotel room. In this context Paul Banks makes Simon Le Bon look like Grant McLennan; and before I’m accused of favoritism, Duran Duran essayed similarly contemptible purploid dirges like “The Seventh Stranger” that no one remembers but their publishing company.

The Duran Duran analogy is mine; Joy Divison is everyone else’s. For those interested in such things, Our Love to Admire shows an advance: now they ape New Order’s Movement, surely that combo’s most static and dullest album. Dengler and rather good drummer Sam Fogarino don’t get many chances to shine, letting guitarist Daniel Kessler create the kind of textures that often get mistaken for progress. Shockingly, the anonymous numbers like “Who Do You Think” and the Pat Benatar wannabe “All Fired Up” offer less punch and more crunch, but there’s the problem: who would want anonymity from Interpol? The tune you’ll probably find on the most CD-R’s is the awesomely titled “No I in Threesome,” which shows Banks’ command of the poetics of illiteracy at its most fulsome. “But there are days in this life / When you see the teeth marks of time” is worthy of scribbling on the cover of a senior yearbook, especially when it’s framed by a piano and Kessler’s keening peals. But it’s no “The Reflex” (and “Pioneer to the Falls” is no “New Moon on Monday”), not when you confuse Banks’ wailing “Life is a wine” for “Life is a whine.”

The rest is unworthy of anyone’s teeth marks, although when it comes to sexuality I’m no elitist. Kudos to Interpol’s PR guys, though, who’ve straddled the alt and teenpop crowds as unself-consciously as Duran Duran did, while fooling another generation of alienated youth into thinking that Ciara and Ashlee Simpson have as little to say about Real Teen Problems as Deniece Williams and Cyndi Lauper in 1984. There’s little chance that an album as terrible as Our Love to Admire (the album title even sounds like translated Japanese) will go splat in 2007, not with so much invested in Interpol’s sucess. All I ask is this: if your boyfriend (or, hell, girlfriend) grew a mustache for your sake, in the hopes that you’d notice, would you love them or laugh? Is this love to admire?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: