With its debut album, “Turn on the Bright Lights,” (Matador) Interpol joins the recent influx of overhyped New York City bands whose sound closely mirrors the sensibilities of a cultish, decades-old act. In this group’s case, it’s the atmospheric moodiness of Joy Division that feeds both the band’s all-black onstage persona and reverb-washed sonic texture. Members look and act the part just fine, but Joy Division also had great songs — all Interpol has are decent ideas.
Part of the problem is that Interpol’s melancholy never becomes melodrama. There’s nothing striking about singer Paul Banks’ too-static voice — his disaffected melodies often sit on a note for measures at a time. Though the goal seems to be tension, the result is tedium, which isn’t helped by his muted, flop-top demeanor.
At least Banks got his bandmates to take up some of the slack. Bassist Carlos D. finds supplementary notes that aren’t just root-based grooves; his retarded punctuation at the end of the opening number “Untitled” was offbeat (and off-beat) backbone excellence. Also outstanding were the helixing guitars of “Obstacle 1,” a suggestive update of Television’s sweeping axe-battle classic “Marquee Moon.”
But two cool moments don’t make a show (or a band, for that matter) remarkable. In general, where its counterparts were sleek, Interpol is sedentary — and where its heroes were hailed for dour romanticism, Interpol is just glum and good looking.