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Interpol - A Fine Mess EP (Album Review)

Tuesday, 21 May 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

When Interpol burst onto the scene with ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ in 2002 their music felt incredibly fresh: melancholic New York indie-punk with a look and feel that screamed libido and intellectualism in equal parts.

Six albums and one key personnel departure later we have their second release in 18 months—the five track EP ‘A Fine Mess’. It’s often a ballsy, thrilling record that hits its marks, but which does not do anything new with the band’s signature sound.

One challenge might be that found in that sound itself. Paul Banks’ lyrics do not inspire curiosity or thoughtfulness in the way that some of his contemporaries— Julian Casablancas and Karen O, to name two—often seemed to manage effortlessly. To most listeners, the vocals will pass by unnoticed because they are drenched in double tracking and reverb and overpowered by the guitars.

This is particularly noticeable in No Big Deal—a track that, tellingly, has one of the EP's most evocative lyrics: “From the beach...to the strip club.” It’s serviceable lyric writing but one suspects there is more insight elsewhere.

The sound of ‘A Fine Mess’ is one part mesmerizing, one part nauseating: intense, chunky guitar rock is somehow rendered pedestrian via incredibly familiar arrangement and melody choices. Bold, distinctive music feels strangely un-evocative. It’s not a bad EP, and there are no weak tracks on it, it’s just samey and it’s unclear what we are getting from this that we do not get from their early work. A familiar challenge.

Certain artists survive via reinvention. When you go to see Coldplay, Elton John or Madonna, you know that the performance you are watching will be different to the one that toured three years ago. Other musicians survive through the integrity of their fundamental voice.

Interpol are one such act: when you go to a gig, you sit back and let that familiar sound wash over you. In that regard, 'A Fine Mess' is superb—the sound has the rawness of earlier iterations. In terms of breaking new ground, it doesn’t get out of second gear.

Interpol Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun May 26 2019 - GLASGOW SWG3
Tue June 25 2019 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Wed June 26 2019 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome

Click here to compare & buy Interpol Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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