Album Review: Interpol, ‘El Pintor’

interpol-el-pintor

They can sell out three nights in a row at New York City’s Terminal 5, draw huge crowds at The Governors Ball, play The Met, and open for U2, but since they never really had a big radio hit Interpol remains unknown to most people.

While they’ve never been a household name, the New York City-band have established themselves as one of the biggest names in alternative rock. Since 2002, their moody, hard hitting sound, led by lead singer Paul Banks and his haunting vocals, have been a staple of their genre. However, in 2008 things began to change. After before the completion of their 2008 self-titled album long-time bassist Carlos Dengler left the band. They ended up finding a replacement and toured with the new lineup before going on hiatus. Fans speculated that the band without Dengler could be radically different and without him would Interpol continue to make new music? It would be four years until that question was finally answered, but thankfully it has as Interpol have made a triumphant return with their latest LP, El Pintor.

On the latest album, Banks took over bass duties and with the help from drummer Sam Fogarino, and guitarist Daniel Kessler; Interpol became a recording trio for the first time in their seventeen-year history. Shortly after announcing the new album and tour, they released the first single off El Pintor, the fast paced anthem, “All The Rage Back Home.” The song begins slowly with a soft melody and Banks delicately singing:

When she wept that love come over my head about
Oh, the feelings
And she wept, hold me again, I made no sound
Oh, the beating
And she swore love is never done
So easily
And we went over again, my head about
Oh, the feeling

Then out of nowhere, Foagrino brings in the drums, Kessler comes in with his iconic guitar riffs, and Banks changes his vocal from gentle to aggressive as it switches to the pre-chorus. It’s as if the beginning of the song represents the long absence of new music from Interpol, then beat kicks in and the song goes in a completely different direction symbolizing that the band is back and better than ever.

Photo Courtesy: Red Light Management
Photo Courtesy: Red Light Management

Although no other song on the album matches the power of “All The Rage Back Home,” it is far from the only gem throughout their newest LP. “My Desire,” “Same Town, New Story,” and “Twice As Hard,” are the slowest of the ten tracks, but they are all quality songs featuring stellar vocals from Banks. No song seems rushed nor do they seem too long. Their last album didn’t have many songs that really rocked outside of “Barricade,” and it may be the reason it didn’t receive the best reviews. Fans know that when they play loud and fast, the trio is truly at their best and that’s when the album really shines. Whether it’s Foagrino’s pulse pounding drums on “Ancient Ways” or Kessler’s signature guitar on “Anywhere;” the trio is in complete sync. It’s surprising how much Dengler’s absence doesn’t affect the quality of the album. In fact, Banks is a rather great bass player, and his distinctive sound is heard strongly on the harrowing fifth track, “My Blue Supreme.”

It took four long years, but after finally listening to Interpol’s latest, it’s hard to complain about how long they took when they have made a near perfect album. Each track is better than the last, and is reminiscent of earlier albums, Antics and Our Love To Admire. The best part of El Pintor is the fact that it never truly slows down, which is vastly different from their previous self-titled EP. Although Turn Off The Bright Lights is still their best album, El Pintor can definitely be a contender for their second.

Pop-Break Rating: 9 out of 10

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Al Mannarino is the music editor for Pop-Break as well as the host of the News Over Brews Podcast. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History and is currently a Promotions Assistant for Clear Channel Media + Entertainment. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino

Al Mannarino is the associate editor and photographer for Pop Break. He is also host of the News Over Brews Podcast, Loot Care Unboxed, Backstage Break, and the producer of Behind the Brews. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino. His photo website is: http://alfredmannarino.com