Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  Turn on the Bright Lights  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

If you follow Internet music chatter, you have heard of Interpol by now. Let me sum up real quick so we can move on: they are latest New York Band that is going to SAVE ROCK MUSIC (presumably from the percieved Evil Axis of Hip-Hop and Electronica) , this time by sounding like Joy Division. You have heard this story before: BRMC, The White Stripes, The Strokes, etc. Blather, rinse, repeat.

I have not been overtly impressed with any of the rest of the over-hyped crowd, but Interpol actually entertain me. Why? Well, i suppose it's because they do, in fact, sound kinda like Joy Division, and thus i can connect to the music. Noise-blues (BRMC) and Garage Rock (Stripes/Strokes) are not anything that amuse me all that much, so the latest incarnation of those sounds fails to impress. On the other hand, i <heart> Joy Division, so a band with an obvious influence in going to at least interest me.

That said, i don't think that they really sound like Joy Division. I mean, not any more than, say, My Favorite. Which means there is a HUGE influence in guitar style, but the mood is different. Joy Division were masters at portraying paranoia and loneliness in music, and no one does it quite that well. Interpol have a similarity in sound, but their music is sunnier and happier.

And that is what makes Turn On The Bright Lights so great. With the "too freaking depressing for words" condition of the world these days, a band that successfully recreated the sheer existential angst of Joy Division would probably push me over the edge. But Interpol are happier. Not that their world is all roses and sunshine, but it is not totally bleak.

It is the guitarwork that speaks to me the most. The guitars chime and squeal with loads of treble and high-on-the-string arpeggios. Particularly on Untitled, the album's opener, and again on Obstacle 1. But Interpol are also capable of creating a punk squeal: on the opening of Say Hello To The Angels the guitars chime a siren call of trebly notes, and those same guitars thunder under distortion on the disturbing Roland. The guitarwork is wonderful. I love that punk-influenced sound, and it is done very well here.

The vocals are pretty good too, with some interesting turns of phrase. My favorite line comes in PDA: "You're so cute when you're frustrated". Ah yes. But in general, the vocalist has a way with words. It's not like he's Kerouac or something, but it's a step up from the "my girl done left me"-type lyrics that seem to infest Indie Rock these days.

Now, any review of Interpol must mention how the singer's voice is similar to that of Ian Curits, the long-dead superstar of Joy Division. I can kind of hear it, but in all honesty the first comparison i made was to that guy who sang for The Blue Nile. (A mid-80's Britsh New Wave act. Very good. You should look them up.) However -- where does this comparison really get us? Who cares if he sounds kind of like Ian Curtis? Or Blue Nile guy? Whatever. And yet -- i think i have read five reviews that make this comparison, and here i am contributing another one. Why? I don't think that, if i were to hear an unknown song by Interpol, i would ask, "Wait -- is this a lost Joy Division tune, because that certainly sounds like Ian!" No, i don't see that happening. So what's the point? And, more importantly, why am i trapped in it? Urgh! Interpol's singer is some sort of Black Hole of Music Criticism. Save yourselves.....

Moving right along, we come to the rhythm section. It is here that the Joy Division influence shows most. After all, we all know that the real genius of Joy Division was Peter Hook, the Greatest Bassist Ever To Touch The 4-Stringed Instrument. It is the tight rhythmic underbelly of Interpol tunes that really makes this album work. The drums and the bass tie everything together, propelling the songs forward in a most satisfying manner.

So, to sum up: Interpol are being hyped all over the place. They are heavily influenced by late 70's post-punk, but they manage to have a more optimistic view of life than many of the people they are influenced by. And they write catchy tunes to boot. So, if you are a fan of that sort of stuff, check them out. If you aren't into it, this probably isn't going to win you over.

However, i do not think that they are the saviours of anything. Come to think of it, i am not even sure what that would mean in a rock n roll context!

Related Links:
  Go read a review of a Joy Divison release, if you want to really know when Interpol are coming from.  

Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.