Wednesday, November 19, 2014

El Pintor vs. The Others

My oh my - people have been saying a lot of big things about El Pintor, haven't they? Critics are gleefully citing Interpol's fifth album as a full-blown return to form, and one person that I spoke to even went so far as to suggest that it's their best since Turn on the Bright Lights, the band's much-loved debut.

Is this true? Is this anagrammatically-titled opus really better than Antics? Do these songs truly reach the same dizzy heights as Say Hello to the Angels and Roland and The New?

I think you already know the answer.

The answer, at least in my opinion, is no. I don't think El Pintor is anywhere near as good as Turn on the Bright Lights, or even Antics; in fact, my first few listens had me thinking that it was their worst yet. It sounded too murky for my ears, and the hooks weren't as on 'Pol classics like Slow Hands and The Heinrich Maneuver.

Having said that, I am coming around to El Pintor's way of thinking - those blunt, murky songs are definitely growing on me, and I'm now prepared to concede that their parent album is, in fact, better than Interpol and Our Love to Admire (and, hey, I actually liked the self-titled record a good deal more than most). I can now see the appeal of immense, swelling tracks like Tidal Wive, appreciate the no-letting-up intensity of Blue Supreme.

(Side note: if anything, my initial - incorrect - distaste for El Pintor was its own fault. The album opens with a song called All the Rage Back Home, which is absolutely TREMENDOUS, a real barnstormer. I'll put the video at the end of this blog so that you can hear it for yourself; it really is awesome, and I think that the rest of the album felt like a let-down by comparison.)

But still, I don't feel that El Pintor is quite as good as those first two albums. Not just because it 'sounds murky' - after all, TotBL sounds pretty murky itself - but because the songs themselves just aren't as memorable as they used to be. The riffs are fantastic, and I still hold a big, waxy candle for Paul Banks and his demonic robot voice, but his words have lost their ability to drill into my brain.

Interpol, see, used to be one of those bands whose every lyric seemed super-rad and quotable. Even the obviously ridiculous lines sounded dramatic enough to be scribbled in the back of my high school planner; here are some examples, culled variously from Antics and Turn on the Bright Lights:

"We spies, intimate slow hands, killer-for-hire, you know not yourself"

"When I'm feeling lazy, it's probably because I'm saving all my energy to pick up when you move into my airspace"

"We all holds hands - can't we all hold hands when we make new plans?"

"My best friend's a butcher, he has sixteen knives. He carries them all over the town, at least he tries- oh look, it's stopped snowing!"

Paul Banks was never William Shakespeare, but his older lyrics utterly compel me to shout along, and for all of El Pintor's merits, there are no songs here that grab me and throttle me into action like the songs quoted above.

With the possible exception of All the Rage Back Home. which - as promised - you can listen to below:

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