Interpol. A name generally associated with international espionage, covert operations, and distant ports of call. Yet since Interpol, the band, swept up listeners with their 2002 Matador debut 'Turn On The Bright Lights,' the moniker has gained new associations as well. It still carries global recognition. For the past two years, one could hardly open a magazine, turn on a radio or television, or step into a nightclub, without hearing Interpol's dark, gripping songs or seeing their countenances. Despite this high level of media exposure, the quartet never lost the tension and complexity that won them acclaim worldwide.
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So it remains on 'Antics.' But what has changed, markedly, is the breadth of sounds, emotion, and characters at play in their music. Contrast the disc's stately opener, "Next Exit," with its swells of percussion and piano, and abrupt brush strokes of whammy bar, to the final track, "A Time To Be So Small," which pulls the listener in like a camera honing in on a great actor in the climactic scene of a classic film, the music building into a swirling vortex that suddenly dissolves into a quiet eddy… and good night.
After two years of seemingly endless tours, the quartet returned in early 2004 to Peter Katis’s Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Conn., to record their second album. They had already debuted a handful of songs earmarked for 'Antics' on the road: "Length of Love," "Narc," "C'mere." Meanwhile, having revisited – and reinvented – the material from 'Bright Lights' night after night, they discovered new strengths. There was more room for experimentation in these songs, for toying with arrangements and intricacies of individual parts, than on their debut.
"On the road, Sam and I would constantly try to outdo each other," says bassist Carlos D. of his interaction, night after night, with drummer Sam Fogarino. "But we still had to 'obey' the old songs. We knew, with the new songs, we could push everything up a notch." Singer Paul Banks concurs: "We learned how far our songs could go, and shot for a higher degree in our songwriting."
They succeeded. "Public Pervert" pushes Interpol's use of dynamics to new extremes, starting with a low, isolated guitar riff, adding a sheen of keyboards in the background, eventually bursting into an explosive chorus, then suddenly dropping back to nearly nothing save a tambourine before ascending the next crest. Hear how, on "Length of Love," one simple syncopation of the bass line adds a seductive additional dimension. On the propulsive single "Slow Hands," lyrics rife with images of abandonment ("Can't you see what you've done to my heart and soul?") skitter across a floor-filling dance groove that swirls with a new fever.
Often, say the band members, it was guitarist Daniel Kessler who would come up with an initial chord progression, or a mood he wanted to capture musically, for a new song. "And then Sam and Carlos would turn it into something else completely," admits Paul. Case in point: The mesmerizing "Not Even Jail," which bristles with a peculiar frisson that suggests the souls of two songs trapped in a single one. "Daniel was trying to push a particular chord progression, and I didn't like it," admits Carlos. "I caused a stalemate. Then one day, Dan came up with a whole new bass line, and that broke the stalemate – because we had to change the original chords and write a totally different melody."
The wider playing field of 'Antics' is especially evident in the diverse ways Paul deploys his voice. "My vocals are higher, more melodic, less monotonous," he observes. His lyrics, though still elliptical, are more upbeat, too. "With 'Bright Lights,' I wanted to sound alienated, to imply tension and desperation, by sinking my vocals into the mix and shouting them. This time, the songs are more expressive and less hopeless. I want the compelling aspect to be the melody, not the drama of the delivery."
With 'Antics,' Interpol has delivered a disc even more engaging than its celebrated predecessor, without sacrificing any of the depth that has made them such an important band for so many. The songs are at once catchier and more variegated, revealing themselves over time to a degree heard on few current releases, and nothing is ever obvious. "A lot of time, there are specific topics or events that that inspire the songs, but it’s not explicit in my lyrics. " Indeed, with Interpol, things are rarely what they seem. And that's how they – and the fans – like it. "What I like about us is that we don't explore ideas in a way where the viewpoint is clear," concludes Carlos. "There's always an element of mystery."
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