It’s been a while since native New Yorkers have had anything to brag about when it comes to local musicians. Sure we’ve had our share of historic artists: Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground, The Ramones, Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, and Television. However, other than hip-hop, which was invented in New York, the most recent relevant New York contribution to music was Sonic Youth, and they really came at the tail end of the great scene spawned by CBGBs. We’ve had to watch Seattle, San Diego, North Carolina and Oregon churn out talented bands hand over fist while we wallow in a scene bereft of inspiration, forced to wait for touring bands to take their lap through our city that never sleeps. Recently, though, there’s been hope in the form of a nascent artistic scene in Brooklyn, which gave us Les Savy Fav, Radio Four and the Liars. Those three have helped lift the veil to reveal a neonatal scene on the verge of exploding. And now Interpol with the release of their self-titled and third release EP has emerged as New York’s shining light.
There are three things most critics tend to dwell on when it comes to Interpol: 1. Vocalist Daniel Kessler’s baritone is similar to Ian Curtis’s of Joy Division fame; 2. Like Joy Division, they build their songs around the bass using the lead guitar to play off the tension and groove created by the rhythm section; 3. The members of Interpol tend to wear black suits conjuring images of the England’s mod scene. Those factors have been responsible for critics tossing the band off as a Joy Division clone—well fughedaboutit! With this EP, Interpol prove that they are more than ready to take the title of most important band and run with it.
Interpol got started when New York University students Daniel Kessler joined up with bassist and keyboardist Carlos Dengler and a drummer named Greg, who was quickly replaced by Sam Fogarino. After solidifying their lineup, they released their debut Precipitate which was quickly gobbled up by the voracious New York community. The band went on to build a following through word of mouth and by constantly playing the New York City club circuit. The release of their second EP, Fukd I.D.#3 on Chemikal Underground pushed them on the world where they were met with instant approval. The energy being generated by Interpol was quickly noticed by New York label Matador records who scooped them up and quickly put out their self-titled EP as a teaser for their full-length Turn on the Bright Lights, which will be released at the end of the summer.
When they signed to Matador, Interpol were merely another band rich with potential but without an identity of their own. However, while everyone kept waiting for Interpol to release Substance Part Deux, Kessler, Dengler and Fogarino went and raided the best ideas Johnny Marr never had, the vault of riffs the Edge wished he came up with and they stole Jason Pierce’s vision.
“PDA” begins the EP with taut guitar riffs being bounced off infectious bass lines before being dumped into a pool of melody, as Interpol comes on like the Gang of Four colliding head on with the Smiths and My Bloody. “NYC” is an epic, sweeping song built up around a shimmering organ, with backing vocals that reach for the heavens leaving you feeling like the city streets under the first winter’s snow. The last song, “Specialist,” is a bit of a letdown but only because it follows up the incomparable “NYC.” However, even Interpol’s lesser numbers are noteworthy, and as the song unfolds over six minutes there are enough twists, turns and melodic interludes to make you smile.