A modern classic truly worth celebrating.
Ian Wade 2012
In the early days of the 21st century, New York was well and truly the place. The Strokes’ breakthrough into the commercial sphere opened doors for further Big Apple acts to follow: LCD Soundsystem and Yeah Yeah Yeahs were great; A.R.E. Weapons, well, less so. And amid the throng, standing out in splendid suits, were Interpol.
Unlike the instant gratification of The Strokes’ Is This It, Interpol’s 2002 debut, Turn On the Bright Lights, became more rewarding the more you listened to it. It gradually revealed layer after layer of wit and guitar angularity – courtesy of the tremendously talented Daniel Kessler – that exceeded initial comparisons to Joy Division and The Psychedelic Furs.
The band assumed the role of observer, viewing its collective life with disconnection when delivering tales of the past. And all the time, the music came on like a funereal R.E.M., the tone suggestive of souls having spent time enough with unpleasant encounters.
The big draw of this tenth anniversary reissue is the bonus disc of demos and live sessions. The demo version of PDA is more lightweight than its album counterpart, but it illustrates how important Paul Banks’ finding of his fullest voice was to Interpol’s aesthetic success – that, and the questionable Nazi-recalling fashion sense of bassist Carlos Dengler.
Over the course of the additional CD, the extras reveal a band in a state of transformation towards an icier, darker proposition. Gavilan (Cubed) is amongst its most interesting curios, threatening as it does to launch into New Order’s Elegia at any moment. Looking to the main album itself, NYC is a perfect post-9/11 hymn to the band’s hometown, and might be their finest moment to this day.
Elsewhere, PDA chimes and drones gloriously, as does Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down. As for the concluding Leif Erikson, it’s more likely the catalyst for the formation of Editors than any influential Joy Division track.
Turn On the Bright Lights is a modern classic. It seems easy, today, to name standout albums of 20 years ago; but ones from just a decade past can be few and far between. This set, though, is one truly worth celebrating.