Turn on the Bright Lights- Interpol

Release Year: 2002

Rating: 8/10

I’m not a huge Interpol fan, but I do like enough of their songs to convince me to check out their debut album. And while it’s good enough, I don’t think it’s one of the best albums of the decade as a lot of publications at the time have claimed. I don’t know if it’s because the pacing of the songs is a little slower than I’m used to or because I don’t know what any of the songs are about, but the album was still enjoyable enough and it’s easy to see why these claims were made.

One thing that intrigues me and puts me off from some of the songs are the vocals. Singer Paul Banks has a unique baritone voice. It really reminds me of Ian Curtis from Joy Division and I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice this. And how I feel about Banks’ vocals is the same way I feel about Curtis’. In some songs like “PDA” and “Say Hello to the Angels” the vocals sound really good and may even complete a dark tone they were going for. But in other songs like “NYC” and “Stella Was a Driver and She Was Always Down” they’re too slow. It could be because the pace of the song is really slow and long and when matched with his monotone vocals it’s easy to tune out or get bored with.

Most of the songs here were pretty good, even the slower paced ones were not that bad. One of my favorite songs on the album is “PDA.” What got me into this song was the chorus: “Sleep tight, grim right, we have two hundred couches where you can/sleep tight.” I guess I find it so interesting because I have no idea what he is going on about here. Also, the constant driving guitar riff found throughout the song is really cool too. Another really awesome, but kind of gruesome song is “Roland.” This song is cool because it sounds like the singer is having a conversation about this guy with someone else. He even seems to get distracted from the subject when he sings “Oh, look it stopped snowing.” It’s one of the things that makes this song stand out from the others. But I think it is pretty dark. It begins with the line “My best friend’s a butcher/He has sixteen knives/He carries them all over town/ at least he tries.” It gets even darker when he sings “He severed segments secretly, you like that.” It seems like he’s talking about a disturbed butcher who went around cutting up people. If that’s not creepy I don’t know what is.

The songs “Obstacle 1” and “Obstacle 2” are also really great. They have stark guitar riffs and awesome bass lines that make you wish you could hear bass in the mix. The thing that makes these songs and some other songs like “Lief Erikson” so great are the lyrics. I’m not going to pretend that I am the best at deciphering song meanings. I’m not that good at it, but with Interpol I have no idea what any of these songs are about. Most of the time it sounds like he’s stringing together phrases and words that sound cool, but don’t really mean anything. Check out this line from “Lief Erikson:” “She feels that my sentimental side should be held with kid gloves/But she doesn’t know that I left my urge in the icebox.” Now, I can kind of make out the first part of the line, but I have no idea what he’s trying to get across with the second half. And I felt like this with just about all of the songs, especially with “Hands Away.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just reminds me of the kid in writing class who thinks they’re being clever, but really has nothing to say. But maybe the songs are really deep and thought provoking and I’m just left out of the loop.

While I enjoyed almost all of the songs, there were a few that I was less enthusiastic about. One was “Stella Was a Driver and She was Always Down.” It’s not a horrible song, but I think what turned me off was the pacing and the length. The music here sounds like a slow version of “Obstacle 2” and it just went on for far too long. It felt even more drawn out by the constant repetition in the lyrics. Another song that has similar issues is “The New.” Once again, the music sounds like what we’ve previously heard before and it goes on longer than it should. These may be the album’s low points, but it wasn’t enough to affect the album too much.

Overall, the album gets 8/10. If you like brooding vocals and dark, gruesome songs along the lines of Joy Division then this is the album for you. There are some great tracks here that will have you moving and singing for days on. And while a lot of the lyrics don’t seem to make much sense, they’re still interesting and can paint disturbing images in your head at times. Some songs were too slow for my tastes, but it wasn’t enough to make me dislike the album.


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