For me, Interpol has always been something of a band of diminishing returns. When they first exploded onto the post-punk revival scene with Turn on the Bright Lights, I heralded them as perhaps the most genuine, talented, and, when compared to peers like The Strokes, underrated new band to come out of that movement. Their followup, Antics, included some of the band’s strongest singles but as a whole couldn’t quite match the excitement and artistry of their debut. Interpol’s subsequent third and fourth albums each felt slightly lesser than as well. By no means were any of their albums bad, but they set the bar so high out of the gate that recreating that spark and power became a seemingly unreachable task. Interpol themselves seemed to realize this fact when, in 2011 (not long after the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler), they voiced a desire to regroup and went on a hiatus to pursue side projects.
It came as a bit of a pleasant surprise when I listened to frontman Paul Banks’ recently-released solo album Banks (apparently his second, though his first released under the name “Julian Plenti” completely slipped under my radar) and felt the most enthralled I have with an Interpol-related release since Turn on the Bright Lights. Though his melancholy baritone crooning (Banks is my personal favorite to champion the style since Ian Curtis) remains the same, music-wise it’s a definite refreshing departure from his main gig. It’s not such a far leap that fans of Interpol will feel alienated, but Banks offers a healthy and much-needed dose of inspiration and reinvention within the same framework of a sound that was beginning to feel tired. In a sense, it’s more grownup but really it’s just more adventurous; shedding the expectations associated with the Interpol moniker allowed Banks to take some more inspired risks.
Paul Banks stops by Mercy Lounge this evening with “special guests” (I can’t seem to find who the opener(s) actually are, but I’m sure they’ll be great). The show’s at 9PM (8PM doors) and tickets are still available here. If his performance is even half as inspired and reenergized as his new album, it’s going to be a really great show!