Interpol’s fifth album: Gritty, boring rock

Media Credit: Photo by flickr user Jason Persse used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Interpol performs at the United Palace Theatre in New York City in 2010.

Interpol’s fifth studio album “El Pintor” was promising. Its opening track “All the Rage Back Home” sets the stage for a soundscape that is bright, anthemic and – for notoriously moody Interpol – fun.

But three tracks in, listeners will discover more of the same. After twelve years, the band’s rock formula hasn’t changed: Paul Banks’ crooning, grating vocals weave through gritty, shimmering electric guitar riffs – think the Foals or The Strokes – with a clean production that gives us a neatly packaged three-minute track every time.

The album will be released next week, but NPR offers a first listen.

Lyrically, there’s no doubt El Pintor is lacking. Verses range from the uninspired (“Besieged by desire/I’m a frustrated man” in the aptly named “My Desire”) to the downright lazy (“Someone I want to be/Cruising in my blue Supreme” in “Blue Supreme”). The album is a tepid foray into true emotional material but never quite hits home, and after track No. 6 (ironically titled “Everything Is Wrong”), listeners will feel restless for a fresh approach.

But all is not lost on the album. Production-wise, the quality is excellent, and pains were clearly taken to add interesting soundscapes to particular songs, like the Italian chanting tones at the end of “Breaker 1.”

“Tidal Wave,” the penultimate track, offers much in the way of sexy, bubbling synths and a crescendo of layered vocals that will please even the most discerning rock aficionado. It’s a song that strikes a chord. “Blue Supreme,” despite Banks’s slow, Lana-like whine, is a glimmer of pure Americana, nostalgic and reminiscent of dry heat and craft beer.

In “Same Town, New Story,” the band taps into bluesy rock, a moderate departure from the rest of the album. But even more appropriate? An Interpol album titled “New Album, Same Story.”

2.5/5 stars

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