ow you feel about the hotly anticipated Antics has a lot to do with your take on Turn On The Bright Lights. For me, it’s now an exceptional one, as it’s aged surprisingly well, and if Antics is good for anything, it’s good for finally settling the debate about the worth of Interpol’s debut.
Antics, you see, is a perfectly good record. If you liked Interpol before you will doubtlessly enjoy it. Although Paul Banks’ winning ways with a bad lyric continue to position him as the natural successor to Bernard Sumner (this time: “Time is like a broken watch / I make money like Fred Astaire” and “If time is my vessel than learning to love might be my way back to sea”), there’s little here for a fan who already tolerates “This is a concept / This is a bracelet / This isn’t no intervention“ to dislike. Antics is ten songs in just over forty minutes with no real clunkers. Plenty of bands have done far worse with their sophomore effort, especially ones whose debuts were so talked about.
Here, perhaps inevitably, Interpol being to sound more like their own band. Some of the copycat charges thrown at them never really stuck, of course—Banks’ voice does not, in fact, sound like Ian Curtis; it never really did. If you go back to “NYC” and “Roland” he sounds strikingly like a slightly more metallic Gord Downie, from Canuck rock heroes The Tragically Hip. But even apart from his voice, the arrangements sound more distinctly Interpolian, for lack of a better word. And as with the last record, they’re impeccable; there’s plenty of richly beautiful sound to enjoy here, with memorable moments in all of the tracks, even the blander ones.
And yet, at the same time, Antics really is about the worst you could expect from them. The things that made Turn On The Bright Lights so good were a) the fact that the song structures seem to come from nowhere at first and b) there was an assiduous handling of mood throughout the album. Here, there’s never anything as interesting (and potentially initially off-putting) as “Say Hello To The Angels” or “The New”. There’s also nothing as claustrophobically intense as “Obstacle 1”, as tender as “Hands Away” or as gorgeously restrained as “Leif Erikson”. Instead we get a series of very similar midtempo chuggers, songs leaking into each other and sounding like dim echoes of Interpol’s past. Essentially, Antics is the first half of (the admittedly great) “PDA” writ large. I could swear “Slow Hands” is going to break out into the chorus of “NARC”, that “Length Of Love” is really “Public Pervert” and so on.
At its best, especially on the relatively long and intense “Not Even Jail”, Interpol show that this is an approach they can work with. Some of the songs that don’t seem to work on first listen blossom into something compulsive (particularly “Take You On A Cruise”). As such, it bears mentioning that if you give Antics enough time, you’re unlikely to regret it.
So maybe Interpol will continue to mature and put out decent, enjoyable, competent albums for the rest of their career. Or maybe their debut did so many things because it was a product of a young band figuring out what they want to do and Antics is it. But this feels like Interpol-by-the-numbers, and if the band never produces anything with the spiky, restless genius of Turn On The Bright Lights again that will be a true pity.