Interpol’s long awaited fifth album, “El Pintor,” sounds strikingly similar to its fantastic debut, “Turn on the Bright Lights,” though this is not necessarily a bad thing. In the 12 years it has been releasing music, Interpol has retained a distinct blend of somber post-rock and alternative rock that has become a calling card. Interpol has always been compared to the likes of fellow rock groups Joy Division, and Echo and the Bunnymen. However, “El Pintor” breaks away from these influences and pursues something new. Driven by the baritone voice of Paul Banks, the lead vocalist, this newest release shows some changes for the group, but ultimately stays true to form.
Instrumentally, “El Pintor” hits some high notes. On the opening track, “All The Rage Back Home,” guitar chords gleam under Banks’ croon while the drum beats hit hard and purposefully. The instruments sound crisp and polished on the release; they are clear and the production is much more refined than on previous releases, although this feels a little off for a band like Interpol that is known for its muted, low-fidelity recording. This step up in production quality sounds like a conscious step away from the pitfalls of its last albums, and while the tracks are all solid, they feel a little safe and predictable stylistically, especially for longtime fans of the group.
There has always been a dark and eerie dynamic to Interpol’s sound. The group tends to use a lot of reverb, which echoes the voice and instrumentation, making the music feel more cold and distant. Banks’ cryptic lyrics often express feelings of loneliness and feeling trapped. The song “Anywhere” highlights these concepts perfectly. Despite repeating the lines “I could go anywhere,” Banks sounds like he is hopelessly stuck, which creates a similar feeling in listeners and may make them sympathize with his experiences. Other tracks like “Same Town, New Story” and “Everything is Wrong” have Banks as somber and contemplative as ever.
This album is very consistent up until the end of the track “Ancient Ways.” The last couple of tracks, “Tidal Wave” and “Twice as Hard,” start to feel a little monotonous because of their slow meandering tempo, giving the album a weak finish. They also don’t hit as hard lyrically, feeling like add-ons to fill out the album.
Interpol, overall, is nothing but consistent in its sound and style. They are a band that knows who they are and manages to stay interesting and relevant despite their predictability. For longtime fans this album should please, or at least meet their expectations for this veteran rock group.