It’s August, 2002. A young post-punk revival group from New York have just released their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights. The album goes on to surpass expected sales, sell-out venues, top numerous end-of-year lists, act as the soundtrack to much teen angst, and to become forever linked to the zeitgeist of post-9/11 New York City. The local music scene is feeding the rise of TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes – Interpol appear enigmatic and serious in comparison, their dark mod-like suits and precise haircuts making them resemble a group of businessmen. There’s a reason for this though – these businessmen knew that they were onto something.
Turn on the Bright Lights was released a decade ago, yet its study of persistent emotional paranoia and the seemingly endless trivialities of life still resonates. However, there is no lone reason for this – this is just one of those albums where everything seems to fall into place: a timeless outcome of either coincidence or fate.
You get the feeling, however, that fate might be more responsible than coincidence in Interpol’s case. The brooding baritone and poetic lyrics of Paul Banks, the elegant and metallic guitar tone of Daniel Kessler, the moody yet melodic bass lines of Carlos Dengler, and the rhythmic power of Sam Fogarino seem all too well-suited for their interaction to be pure coincidence.
Early on, the industry knowledge and musical vision of Kessler helped the band in getting signed to Matador Records. They retreated to the home of producer Peter Katis in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but memories of New York continued to haunt them. Thus, no matter where you look on this album, Interpol remain hauntingly beautiful. This completely remastered tenth anniversary edition pays much respect to the original, yet manages to further revive this beauty.
The expansive yet sombre ringings of Untitled, the intense changes in dynamics seen on Obstacle 1 and Obstacle 2, and the cold honesty of PDA and Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down are all as poignant as they were on the first listen. Fans are also rewarded with numerous b-sides, demos, and live tracks on this anniversary edition, providing an insight into just how much the band developed over the course of the album’s creation and release.
What also remains clear is the power of Banks’ lyricism. While it could be argued that his lyrics aren’t as potent as they used to be, Turn on the Bright Lights relies heavily on his poetics: Banks’ vague yet expressive word-play allows listeners to project their own meanings and experiences onto his words, perhaps another reason why the album continues to resonate with fans. ‘You’re so cute when you’re frustrated, dear / You’re so cute when you’re sedated, dear,’ and ‘Friends don’t waste wine when there’s words to sell’, are forever engraved in the collective consciousness of Interpol fans.
Turn on the Bright Lights allowed Interpol to quit their day jobs, and positioned them as one of the figureheads of the indie-rock world. However, it also created something extremely difficult to live up to. Nonetheless, with this tenth anniversary edition the group assert that they are proud of their work, and rightly so. As they plan to record their fifth album in 2013 – their first without Dengler, who left the band in 2010 – the group should take both confidence and contentment from the longevity of their debut: a perfect mix of all that is heart wrenching, inspiring and breathtaking about Interpol.