Interpol's towering seventh album moves into bigger, brighter territory – delivering the band's best record in years
Twenty years after Turn On The Bright Lights, Interpol have finally started edging their way out of the darkness.
Soundtracking the twilight sweep of 00s New York for the past two decades, the band have always thrived in the shadows – motionless silhouettes on stage; dense, underground alt-rock on every record since their 2002 debut. Where 2018’s scuzzy Marauder went back to Interpol’s Joy Division roots, seventh album The Other Side Of Make-Believe pushes them forward – brighter, smarter, more experimental and less cautious than anything they’ve made in years.
Not that Interpol are ever going to make a summer anthem. While ‘Gran Hotel’ gets the closest here (Paul Banks singing so convincingly about holidays on a Mexican island that you can almost imagine him in shorts), the real light comes from an openness that the band have always shied away from. Where emotions are usually hidden behind noise and abstraction, first track ‘Toni’ hits the album with a rare shot of optimism.
“I like the inspiration…” sings Banks, introspective for the first time, “it’s going in the right direction”. Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s the involvement of producer Flood (of everyone from New Order and Nine Inch Nails to Nick Cave and Warpaint). More likely though it’s the distance – with the record written across multiple timelines during lockdown.
As Banks wrote in Edinburgh, guitarist Daniel Kessler was in Spain and drummer Sam Fogarino stayed in the US, all working independently on their own parts which came together in the studio sounding like a band with a whole new sense of self. “The aim now is perfection always…” ‘Toni’ goes on, ‘The aim now is f*ckin’ leave it all behind.”
As soon as the album begins, everything starts opening up. Beginning with scratchy fretwork before swelling into something cinematic, it’s like watching the moment in a film when the camera pulls back to widescreen. Always a deeply visual band, here Interpol turn The Other Side Of Make-Believe into a record you see as well as hear – still sticking strictly to interiors but now making the room feel bigger than ever.
‘Fables’ and ‘Into The Night’ see Banks and Kessler weaving around each other, one singing about betrayals, loneliness and drinking in the Seine while the other layers up jagged loops and stabbing hooks to say the same thing in a different way. Sometimes Banks edges ahead (turning ‘Something Changed’ into something the Matt Berninger might croon at his spikiest), other times it’s Kessler’s record (‘Passenger’ and ‘Greenwich’ getting some of Interpol’s most interesting guitarwork to date), while drummer and pianist Sam Fogarino gives the whole record its texture and ambition.
Still carrying the best of the band’s trademark sound while pushing into something much more expansive and intimate at the same time, The Other Side Of Make-Believe feels like the start of the Interpol’s second act.
The Other Side Of Make-Believe is out on Friday 15 July. Interpol are playing the O2 Forum Kentish Town on Monday 18 July, with tickets available here.