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Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Review: Our Love To Admire

The new Interpol album is recently out, with stuffed and mounted (extinct?) animals from kitsch dioaramas on the cover and inside the lyricless booklet. As is well-known, it is their third, but first on a big label. The question that arises on first hearing this moody, slow-burning, sometimes exquisite, even morose album, is: what exactly does this foursome think they're doing?

Labelled under the genre "alternative", American, New Yorkers, and based in the terrorised first decade of the 21st century, Interpol (their name itself is a sign of the times), is a weird cultural throwback. Oddly, the style Interpol have adopted is derived from Joy Division (from a post-industrial town in the North of England) with a hint of The B-52s (listen to those herky-jerky vocals again). Interpol seem like poseurs in this lineage. But they do not parody, but perform a pastiche of a style, and thereby refresh it for the current age.

That is, they sound like Joy Division, if Joy Division (and this is far more the case here than for Editors, for instance) were chemical-using late-nighters in Manhattan post 9/11, instead of, as we know, more complex and limited figures. Interpol - able to think in terms of an American career (Joy Division lost their lead signer on the eve of such a career) - thereby have to plan and execute an album of songs, exploring themes, subjects, using lyrics, and various sonic strategies, to establish a brand for themselves.

As such, the new album is both derivative, and, as a piece of genre work, impressively innovative (as paradoxical as that almost is). Less didactic, or overbearingly symphonic (cacaphonic?) than Arcade Fire, less one-note lo-fi than The Strokes, less pro-American and upbeat than The Killers, and disinterested in cheap forms of epiphany (unlike Coldplay, Snow Patrol and other derivative U2 offshoots) they're marking a niche for themselves as definitively serious, sombre, yet tuneful songwriters, laying down a sort of narcissistic East Coast melancholy soundtrack that Edgar Allan Poe would have understood as just as American as Whitman's more transcendental aims.

Is it a good album? It is a good album. Is it well-crafted? It is well-crafted. The songs are cool, and sinuous in their design. At times, it is small "e" epic. Why do people make such music? Why do people listen to it? Something in us enjoys such sounds, does not refuse such sounds.

Five specs.
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