Cure-All 

Interpol’s third record is their most vibrant

Cure-AllThe Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and Chameleons comparisons thrown at Interpol remain valid, but the band’s major-label debut, Our Love to Admire, also channels the work of another seminal gloomy band, at least in an abstract sense: The Cure.
The Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and Chameleons comparisons thrown at Interpol remain valid, but the band’s major-label debut, Our Love to Admire, also channels the work of another seminal gloomy band, at least in an abstract sense: The Cure. More specifically, the stark, stormy clouds of Faith/Seventeen Seconds/Pornography-era Cure, a time when Robert Smith & Co. focused on atmosphere over traditional song structure, a time when abject misery and howling despair dominated their music. A few pop songs peek out from the murk, but the focus of Interpol’s third studio record (and those Cure discs) is rich, gorgeous texture.

Lyrically and musically, Admire is creepier and more sinister than both of Interpol’s previous albums, Antics and Turn on the Bright Lights. It’s partly because the richer music allows a greater depth of expression, but it’s largely due to the band’s awe-inspiring use of dynamics, which makes the record often feel like a movie score.

Sure, Admire is still mannered and impeccably rendered—if Interpol have one major strength, it’s that their albums are always magnificent and beautiful, glossy without sounding over-produced—but it’s also the most vibrant Interpol album yet.

And while the disc is more suited to the dead of winter than its summer release—and it certainly has its ice-queen, detached moments—it’s also not as monochrome (or monotonous). Consider it covering the entire black-through-white palette, instead of just a few shades of gray. Listen to it while wearing headphones. Listen to it while driving around in the dark. Just listen to it—despite all of the hype and secrecy surrounding it, it’s a rewarding album. Here’s a song-by-song analysis:

“Pioneer to the Falls”: Like Turn on the Bright Lights’ opener, “Untitled 1,” “Falls” is a slowly unfurling tune that crescendos and builds until exhausted by its end. Credit the major-label budget, or Interpol’s ever-increasing ambition, but “Falls” is arguably the richest song they’ve ever recorded (and the most Cure-like). Death-march piano and woodwinds add countermelodies; a giant quivering mass of strings swells in the middle section, and horns pipe in at the end. Vocalist Paul Banks presides over the song like a stern, somber preacher peering over the pulpit at his congregation—a delivery matched by lyrics. A bit too long, but beautiful to behold.

“No I in Threesome”: A rumbling, solitary bass line from Carlos D dominates the song’s start, a desolate gesture that segues neatly into distressed minor chords doing a macabre death-dance with plinking piano. Banks’ voice falls into the background, almost drowned out by the music swooning around him—music that’s dramatic and almost romantic, until you consider the lyrics. Taken on their own, words such as, “Babe, it’s time we give something new a try / Oh alone we may fight / So just let us be free tonight” seduce in a flowery, pillow-talk sense. But Banks’ monotone delivery in conjunction with the dark music turns these phrases creepy.

“Scale”: Another mid-tempo but clunky dirge, this time driven by jagged guitars that feel very reminiscent of ’80s dark-wave. “I made you / And now I take you back” are the prevailing lyrics.

“Heinrich Maneuver”: The token uptempo Interpol single for mainstream radio play. Obvious hooks, bouncy bass line, memorable guitar riffs, suitably cryptic lyrics. An enjoyable song, but other tracks here are more rewarding (so haters can shush).

“Mammoth”: “Mammoth” reaches out and grabs listeners by the throat—a nice change from the polite melancholy we’re used to. (Banks sounds like he breaks a sweat! Passion!) A faraway voice that’s light (and reminiscent of Bob Mould at times) whispers the phrase “spare me the suspense” over ringing, insistent, brisk guitars. Banks chimes in after a few verses and utters the same phrase in his trademark low tones. Warm and inviting, it’s most like an Editors song—and as a corollary, could be an outtake from the sessions for R.E.M.’s Green.

“Pace Is the Trick”: A stunning and gorgeous song. A sparse, skeletal melody accompanies Banks’ hollow intoning on the early verses. The chorus expands into a lush, multitracked attack of charcoal guitars and layered vocals, which find Banks again reaching into his upper range. The cinematic lyrics reek of intrigue, if not vague hints of misogyny and self-loathing. Simply beautiful—almost too pristine to disturb—and a clear highlight.

“All Fired Up”: Dirty, dingy riffs that are very Jesus and Mary Chain anchor the song with propulsive drumming. The song starts with the vaguely sinister lines “I dream of you draped in wires and leaning on the brakes.” Also very early Psychedelic Furs-sounding. Would be great remixed and sped up.

“Rest My Chemistry”: Vaguely Pixies-ish guitars—specifically, the towering howls of “Where Is My Mind?”—snake through for melody. Slower than the past few songs and off-kilter sounding, but catchy.

“Who Do You Think?”: Spare, clashing guitars at the start make the song threaten to dissolve into a Rapture tune. And spiraling beats emerge that are rather danceable—in the new-wave, gawky sort of way. Like Bauhaus dirty-dancing with U2. Not very memorable, and also sorta clunky.

“Wrecking Ball”: Swaggering, moody, confident. Banks sounds like he’s singing from inside a tunnel, or coming from behind a door—which adds to the brooding feeling of the muted song. Lyrics emerge, and then nearly three minutes into the song, it nearly stops, then continues as a near-instrumental. Mournful guitar, synths and horns (along with faint vocals) slowly build and wind around each other like a movie score, or like an Explosions in the Sky song—evoking great sadness and loss. Another highlight.

“Lighthouse”: The most ideal representation of the album-as-movie-score theory. Understated, lullabye-like and moodier than a gothic teenager mired in Edward Scissorhands suburbia. Reminiscent of Nick Cave’s somber sea-songs, it’s quite slow, and sonically resembles the quiet peace of sleeping on a boat in the middle of a lake. A perfect coda to the record that dovetails with the first track if the album is on repeat—wonderful symmetry that befits the record’s tone.

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