Our Love to Admire
One would assume that the antelope on the cover of Our Love to Admire would strike a more expressive pose than pictured, given that he faces his demise via predatory lions. I guess this antelope just needs a little more time to mull over what’s happening before reacting. That kind of behavior is just not going to cut it for most animals that like their torsos intact, and while humans rarely have to worry (anymore) about that sort of thing, the principle still rings true in modern society: there are those with a predilection for quick action, and they get what they want; then there are those who spend too much time thinking about what they want. Then there’s Interpol, who spend their time making music about thinking too much about what they want.
So far, they’ve been very good at it. In the past, they have fashioned oblique tales of poisoned efforts and paralyzed ambition, which they then channeled through singer Paul Banks’ malicious baritone over downcast dance beats to craft two impressive and consistent full-lengths, Turn on the Bright Lights (a modern rock masterpiece) and Antics. Being established as one of the premier indie bands of the decade will grant you the right to take a break from touring and recording, but it can also raise anticipation of a follow-up to Radiohead-like proportions. When that happens, you’d better be Radiohead, because almost nothing you pull out of your hat is going to satisfy the fans.
I suspect that this was on Interpol’s minds the past year, because Our Love to Admire sounds like the work of a band that tried to evolve instead of just evolving. It is the difference between a band being in their element and a band being out of it. After affording themselves a more spacious sound with a jump to a major label, the concept that Interpol now seems to be trying to fulfill is that of a lonely orchestra. While the echoes of the double bass, orchestral bass drum, and the occasional bell toll are a welcome addition to their sonic palette, Interpol’s normally stellar rhythm section doesn’t seem to know where it fits in half the time. Tracks like “The Scale” and “All Fired Up” are outright duds, featuring the most uninspired and clunky riffs the band has ever recorded. With their momentum in a holding pattern for these songs, Interpol just sounds uncomfortable.
Thankfully, those are low points, and the rest of the album is on higher ground. Out of the several rhythmically experimental songs, the twitchy “Rest My Chemistry” comes closest to success, although Interpol hits for a much higher average when it sticks to what it knows. “The Heinrich Maneuver,” a bitter tirade against an ex who moved away before Banks had a chance to tell her off, is Interpol’s first single and a tight, hard-charging rocker that plays right to their strengths. Banks lyrically juxtaposes frankness and non sequitur as if unsure how much to protect his own emotions, while his wounded contempt is achingly evident with the smirking remark, “How are things in the west coast?”
More of Banks’ unique phrasing and posturing (“Now I select you / slow down I let you / see how I stun”) are on display in the towering ballad “Pace Is the Trick.” But it’s the album’s second track, “No I in Threesome,” that showcases the band with all its cylinders firing. A chiming Arcade Fire-esque piano and a wash of shimmering guitars tell the story of a relationship backed against the wall before Banks has to say a word. There is something perversely endearing, however, about the line “alone we may fight / so let us be three tonight” being used as an awkward threesome overture.
Despite the album’s bright spots, Our Love to Admire is still Interpol’s weakest effort. That sounds worse than it is, because a middling release by Interpol still contends among their peers. Given the sheer quality they’ve already delivered to their fans, the band is essentially playing with the house’s money, so the missteps on Our Love to Admire are forgivable if they are growing pains for a band exploring new territory. But they could also be a warning that the band is past its creative peak. Let’s hope the former is the case.