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Album Review: Interpol – ‘El Pintor’

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on September 5, 2014

With a measured, looping twang and Paul Banks’ unmistakable purr, Interpol paint the first strokes of their fifth album, El Pintor. This, lead single All the Rage Back Home, is the New York outfit at their finest. Brimming with urgency, it’s a desperate love song that is tender yet emphatic – a tightrope that Interpol walks with inimitable balance.

Borne out of the post-punk legacy of bands like Joy Division, but producing music imbued with a distinctly American flavour, Interpol released their critically-acclaimed debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights, in 2002. What followed was close to a decade of success for the band, in which they released three more superb albums and toured relentlessly. But after the departure of hugely influential bassist Carlos Dengler in 2010, the remaining members undertook something of a hiatus.

Unable to be silenced for long, however, Banks and guitarist Daniel Kessler realised in 2012 that the embers of Interpol still burned. Banks devised the melody to My Desire, the second track on the album, in a sweltering rehearsal space in August of that year, and so began the construction of El Pintor.

With Banks on bass comes a slightly new identity; the Interpol of old is recognisable, of course, but when their previous releases would have built slowly through peaks and troughs to form a varied sonic journey, this album takes a more full-throttle approach. With Kessler and Banks working off one another’s energy, and Sam Fogarino contributing lively, insistent percussion to match, El Pintor is Interpol’s most wholly dynamic release by far.


Anywhere and Everything Is Wrong, in particular, express this newfound vibrancy while remaining true to the sonic and lyrical sensibilities from which Interpol have forged their success. Kessler is a looming presence on guitar throughout the album, which could easily be an allegory for maturity coming with age. Such is the outstanding quality of El Pintor and the manner in which Interpol approached its creation.

El Pintor is both an anagram of Interpol and Spanish for ‘the painter’. Indeed, the album is a magnificent artwork, layered onto the canvas of a band that almost didn’t make it to a fifth release. Insistent, driving riffs and the restrained passion that characterises Paul Banks’ vocal style have always been Interpol’s trademark, but on El Pintor they are magnified, perhaps as a result of the band members’ time apart. Regardless, it is undeniable that Interpol march on, as epic as ever, making music that is controlled, brooding and, at times, incomparably emotive.

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