PAUL BANKS STILL SOUNDS LIKE THE GUY FROM INTERPOL; NOT NECESSARILY A GOOD THING.
Story by Adam Steel
Full disclosure: while listening to Paul Banks’ new album, I was (legally) burning leaves. As many Fall-enthusiasts and campground aficionados can attest to, even the most pedestrian of tasks can seem downright enchanting when one eye is trained on a barely-contained ball of fire, its glowing, destructive force hell-bent on turning tree droppings into black dust. That being said, the intoxicating fumes were no match for the interminable dreariness that served as the soundtrack to my weekend in the woods. Let me explain.
I must preface this review by stating that Banks’ nasally drone has always been hit or miss—even amongst critics. Love it or hate it, it has become the overladen fixture of Interpol’s chaotic sound, not to mention one of the signatures voices (along with Kele Okereke, Julian Casablancas and Alex Kapranos) of twenty-first century indie rock.
Now, Interpol always managed to do it for me. Turn on the Bright Lights? Brilliant. Fast forward eleven years and the unmistakable Banks-like resonance—same sharp and howling delivery—is still there. The problem lies in the production room, where fast and furious fingers were busy pushing far too many buttons.
First, the reverb. The most mundane lines are proceeded by an irritating and exaggerated telltale echo that sound like a speaker caught in an airshaft. Irritating, yet preferable to no dialogue at all. “Lisbon” is an instrumental track of ho-hum guitar tricks; “Another Chance“ is a bizarre, expletive-strewn spoken monologue from some angry male—not Banks—berating some unresponsive (assumedly) female conquest about her supposed lack of trust.
Secondly, there is a pervasive sense of urgency to Banks that is not surprising, given the release of teaser EP Julian Plenti Lives… a mere three months ago. Rather than take the advantage of time so often afforded to seasoned vets attempting a break into solo territory (not including his efforts as the aforementioned alter ego Plenti—remember: this is the first time he is using his own name), Banks seems to have thrown together a slapdash effort that lacks cohesion and overdoses on eerie instrumentation, ultimately sounding exactly like the very band from whom he has tried to distance himself—only weaker, especially on a pseudo happy-go-lucky track like “Summertime Is Coming” or lead single “The Base.”
It pains me to write this as, in doing so, I feel as though I am saying a definitive goodbye and good riddance to the music that—only a few years ago—I was lapping up with unbridled enthusiasm. Now, like Banks, I feel older and cynical of any change. I could always just blame the fire?
Be forewarned: Banks is nowhere near as accessible as Interpol’s worst record. Despite its numerous faults, I implore you to give it multiple listens while adhering to the following criteria: Abandon any stinging memories of Interpol and Avoid playing it while standing near something that is being destroyed.