Review: ‘Interpol’

With its debut album, 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.

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.

Interpol

Troubadour; 450 capacity; $10

Production

Presented by Troubador, Goldenvoice and KCRW-FM. Opened and reviewed Sept. 18, 2002, closed Sept 19.

Cast

Band: Paul Banks, Carlos D, Sam Fogarino, Daniel Kessler, Eric Altesleben.
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