On El Pintor, Interpol’s fifth studio album, the New York post-punk revivalists return as an incomplete but powerful version of their former selves. Spanish for “The Painter”, as well as a convenient anagram of Interpol, El Pintor sits heavily under the weight of artistic stresses and the memory of its disappointing predecessor. It’s an album which pushes, grinds and contemplates before eventually coming up for air.
Bass duties have been assumed by frontman Paul Banks after the departure of Carlos Dengler, who left after the release of Interpol’s 2010 self-titled album. Banks’ lines are nowhere near as dynamic or as memorable as Dengler’s (Dengler rightfully suggested the band’s debut be titled Celebrated Basslines Of The Future), but they do become one of El Pintor’s defining features. Think less bounce and more thud, less nuance and more propulsion.
El Pintor’s recurring metaphor centres around a heavy, all-consuming tidal wave. “Feels like the whole world is up on my shoulders / Feels like the whole world’s coming down on me,” Banks sings on Same Town New Story. “To be beaten by the weight of it,” he repeats on Ancient Ways.
This emotional load is mirrored in El Pintor’s pressurised spaces, with Banks’ vocals sitting under dense layers of guitar and rolling percussion. It’s that easily identifiable Interpol sound, just multiplied a few times and smashed against the seabed.
Watch: Interpol – All The Rage Back Home
This does result in a few moments of Interpol-on-cruise-control. Sitting in the middle of the album, Same Town New Story, Everything Is Wrong and the car-advertisement-esque My Blue Supreme see the band at their most meditative and most anticlimactic, with Banks’ lyrics at their least poetic.
It’s not until the aptly titled Tidal Wave that Interpol break through El Pintor’s murky barrier with a truly inspiring synth-backed crescendo. Banks adds some delicate falsetto to his typically subdued baritone as the band momentarily fly at full force.
When Interpol reissued their debut album Turn On The Bright Lights in 2012, they re-emphasised the captivating level of naive brilliance they had achieved. Despite having lost some of the intrigue which clung to them in their heyday, Interpol sound like they’re having fun again. El Pintor is a desperately needed return to form.
‘El Pintor’ is released on 5th September.
Watch: Interpol – Anywhere (Live in Brixton)