Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights 12"
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On the surface, the story of Interpol's 2002 full-length debut Turn on the Bright Lights is almost annoyingly of its place and time: four guys meet in New York, start a band, make tightly-wound indie rock jams that sound great at your favorite mid-gentrification Williamsburg bar, sign to a renowned independent label, and the rest is history. But the early-aughts New York of Turn on the Bright Lights is not the young, vibrant, and impossibly cool place of cultural myth. It is a darker and more complicated place, fraught with disappointment and disconnection. It is a crushingly real place, rendered in such vivid emotional detail that it rings true even to those who have never set foot in the city. This stellar 10th Anniversary reissue documents the process by which a handful of pretty-good songs became a truly great album, making it painfully and unequivocally clear that Turn on the Bright Lights is the sum of its players, not its influences.
In retrospect, 2002 may have been the very year that we stopped talking about how music sounds, and started talking about what other music it sounds like. "Interpol sounds like Joy Division" was one of the first critical observations to turn into a full-fledged meme. In the intervening years, other bands have sounded a whole lot more like Joy Division, and the comparison now feels like just that: a comparison. While Joy Division could channel enormous amounts of energy through Ian Curtis's intense delivery, Interpol pulled off a real magic trick by constructing a framework complex and dynamic enough to bring singer Paul Banks' inscrutable deadpan to life. Banks's words can be downright laughable on paper, and are often sung as if WRITTEN OUT IN ALL CAPS WITH NO PUNCTUATION. But from this insistent, exaggerated blankness, the band coaxed a genuinely unnerving sense of alienation and melancholy. These songs are packed with a staggering amount of rhythmic and melodic tension, sometimes amplifying minuscule expressive nuances in Banks's voice, and sometimes drawing attention to their disconcerting absence.