Album Review: Interpol, ‘El Pintor’

Interpol – El Pintor
Matador (2014)

These NYC post-punkers have a knack for creating mood music fit for a starving artist living in a cheap motel. But don’t take that the wrong way–it’s definitely a compliment. Post-punk is a genre built on sadness and sexy metaphors, and as one of the more modern incarnations, Interpol doesn’t hold back the moodiness. 

Think back to the band’s first album, 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights. Widely considered to be one of the greatest albums of the 2000s, it hearkened back to the the sounds of Joy Division without sounding like a carbon copy. Its follow-up, 2004’s Antics, was just as impressive (though some may disagree with me on that one–that’s fine, I’ll just revel in the perfection that is “Evil” by myself). 

It’s tough for any band to churn out consistently great records, and I will admit that Interpol’s last two studio albums were fairly disappointing. When I heard news about bassist Carlos Dengler’s departure and the band’s decision to record an album without him, I was definitely worried. I had fallen in love with the man’s bass lines and couldn’t imagine an Interpol without him. But boy, was I proven wrong.

El Pintor manages to recapture the magic of Interpol’s early work while still sounding fresh. Singer/guitarist Paul Banks pulls double duty, picking up bass himself, and it sounds fantastic. The songwriting here is excellent, and none of the tracks really drag (which was the major issue with the band’s previous effort, 2010’s Interpol). There is just enough momentum to keep the album moving at a reasonable pace–I wasn’t waiting for each song to end so I could start the next one because I was completely engaged with each track. 

Though El Pintor has a definitive driving force, there’s still a touch of that moody darkness we’ve come to know and love. Banks croons about despair and the fear of remaining stagnant on tracks like “My Desire” and “My Blue Supreme,” but the melancholy never lingers too long. In fact, if you came of age around the time Turn on the Bright Lights came out (like yours truly), this album may feel comforting and familiar to you. Perhaps I’m just the sentimental type who finds comfort in sad albums by sad boys, but El Pintor strikes a nostalgic chord within me. 

Most of the tracks have a subdued intensity that few bands nowadays achieve, though there are a few exceptions, most notably “Ancient Ways.” The song opens with a pounding drum beat and an absolutely ferocious guitar riff, followed by Banks calling out, “Fuck the ancient ways.” 

So yes, fuck the ancient ways because there’s a new Interpol in town. 

Grade: A-