Interpol were always the most elegant, the most seductive of New York indie’s Class Of ‘01. At times impossible to decipher, their opening two records rank as some of the era’s finest music, a gothic, sub- zero take on post-punk that flicked cigarette ash in the face of convention.
The past decade, though, has found the group’s confidence falter a little. 2014’s ‘El Pintor’ - an anagram of the New York outfit’s name – felt like shakily shoring up old ground; their first LP without the distinctive figure of Carlos D on bass, it was the sound of an undoubtedly talented band placed into sudden introversion, robbed of the confidence needed for their aural elegance.
New album ‘Marauder’ though is the sound of a band renewed, with Interpol finding fresh space within familiar tropes, matching the key elements of their sound to a torrent of fresh ideas, and vivid new points of exploration. It opens with a ruthless one-two: ‘If You Really Love Nothing’ could practically be a template for Interpol’s chosen method of distilling glamorous melancholy, while ‘The Rover’ is all cross-hair guitar lines, probing, Morse code messages channelled through a six-string.
The choice of producer could be key to their renewal. The vastly Dave Fridmann helmed sessions in upstate New York, the midwinter snows clinging to the windows as the band recorded as close to live as possible – sometimes even working together, the results splashed across two-inch tape.
The process results in some curious decisions, the kind of on-the-hop creativity that made their early releases such an absolute thrill. ‘Complications’ has this weird, concrete reggae bounce, an offbeat charm that upends expectations. ‘Flight Of Fancy’, though, is classic Interpol, its surging verse and glacial chorus reminiscent of second album peaks such as forever-youthful live anthem ‘Evil’.
‘Marauder’ has an almost visceral grasp of sound, the needle surging into the red while Interpol maintain a resolute grasp of their austere cool. On ‘Mountain Child’ you can practically hear the guitar pick tapping the strings during the opening, with the vocals not so much brooding as monastic in their sublime drone.
‘Surveillance’ surges into open space, the taut, dystopian paranoia of the lyrics set against some of the band’s most fluid, confident, arena-shaped songwriting for some time. The endlessly undulating cymbal brushes feel like inverted disco, a kind of Studio 54 after the lights have gone out. ‘Stay In Touch’ is rooted in an odd rockabilly flourish, a kind of elegant take on The Cramps; the lengthy breakdown matching their seductive live appeal to the control of the studio.
On initial sight ‘Marauder’ could perhaps be accused of excess bloat at 13 tracks - however two of those are short ambient interludes, providing junction points for ideas to gather, and then scatter. It’s unexpectedly classical in structure, and classically unexpected in execution.
‘Number 10’ - a reference to our own seat of political power, perhaps? - opens with zero gravity guitar lines, before suddenly clicking into gear, a headlong rush that is compact, concise, and downright catchy; slate grey pop that swaps the neon of the charts for graveyard monochrome. ‘Party’s Over’ offers paranoid post-punk, with its tumbling guitars carrying echoes of Joy Division or unjustly neglected cult heroes The Sound.
Finale ‘It Probably Matters’ contains final sign of their exquisite confidence: dappled in sunlight, bursts of pure white light, a sort of frosted Americana in tone, a lovelorn hymn that dwells on mistakes and regrets, a means of finally placing the past to one side.
Raw but refined, familiar but resolutely strange, ‘Marauder’ seizes that fine balance of retaining the old while introducing the new; the sound of a band at ease with themselves, it could well be Interpol’s finest album in a decade.
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