Is The New Interpol Album 'El Pintor' The Shit Or Just Shit?

The problem with arriving so fully formed on your first album, as Interpol did in 2002 with their now-classic Turn On The Bright Lights, is that the only direction to go from that point, it seems, is down. Don't believe me? Just ask the Killers, whose every album since Hot Fuss has served only to prove how much of an absolute fluke that brief burst of focused genius had been.

In a way, maybe bands like Interpol, the Strokes, and the aforementioned Killers would have been better served by ripping a page out of the La's playbook and releasing just the one album rather than foisting less-inspired product into the marketplace for the sole purpose of having something new to promote on their upcoming tour.

Just once, we'd like to see one of these bands rise above their own past greatness and create something capable of replacing that twelve-year-old album as the go-to album in the minds of hardcore and fair-weather fans alike.

"All The Rage Back Home" opens the album with a burst of shimmery chorus-laden guitars and, suddenly, all is right with the world and the band isn't just giving us "Obstacle 1, Pt 2."  The syncopated "My Desire" follows, swarming around the listener like a nest of angry hornets, but the song never truly takes flight.

The album, and band, are better when the guitars have a steady, hammering beat to glide along to, as they do on "Anywhere".  But just as soon as they win us back, it seems, the band delivers two plaintive mid-tempo ballads ("Same Town, New Story" and "My Blue Supreme").  Is it wrong that we think it sounds more like Coldplay?

"Everything Is Wrong" is unremarkable in its precision, chiming guitars looking for a hook that never quite comes to hang their hats on.

"Breaker 1" and "Ancient Ways" are tense, dense sonic pastiches of gliding guitars married to jackhammer drums that turn a Sunday drive into a rapid-speed time-lapse excursion.

"Tidal Wave", which would have made a much better album-opener than "All The Rage Back Home", sounds a little too much like latter-day U2 at times, but wins the band bonus points for integrating some additional shades of grey into their sonic palette.  The deceptively subtle chorus hook will worm its way into your psyche if you let it and those who have no idea what band is playing will ask you "Who is that?"

"Twice as Hard" closes the album on a contemplative note, not happy to just hit you with one more blast of digital delay, but to create a swirling, slightly disorienting collage of guitars over which Paul Banks exorcises once and for all the ghost of Ian Curtis.

Verdict: This album is not shit, but it's not THE SHIT either.  On a letter-grade scale, we'd give it a C+ and on a scale of 1 to 10, it would rank a 6.5 or 7.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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