Did you know that Paul Banks is now 41? All of your alternative-rock dream boys from 2004 are middle-aged-ass men now. How does that make you feel? Aging, of course. Well, the pretty boys may have aged but their music has not. Interpol hasn’t suffered the years. They may have, in their early days, suffered from critics who compared them to depressing New Wave bands from the 80’s, but they’ve outlived any and all ‘being the next whoever’ hype. They never sounded like whatever was trending in the early 2000’s, and now whatever was trending in the early 2000’s sounds like a bad flashback, and Interpol sounds downright timeless.
I worry a lot about that phenomenon where the brain, after reaching a certain age, loses the ability to enjoy new things. I’m in my mid-thirties and it seems like only a matter of time before everything I haven’t heard, seen or tasted before appears to be garbage. So when I do become fascinated by something new, I feel very pleased with myself. Look, I only first heard Interpol a few years ago, and they’ve quickly become a band that I can happily listen to all day. They’re gone from nonentity to major favorite and I post about them all the time. It’s like a blossoming romance! Without any of the inevitable downsides! You can now point out that the only reason that my aging brain has allowed me to enjoy this music is because it’s reminiscent of things I already know and like. This is true. Interpol falls squarely into a category of the familiar. In fact, they’re everything I’ve always loved and can’t get enough of; dark, moody, jangly, wordy, atmospheric rock music made by men who look good smoking. I like it because I’m already primed to like it. And I’m okay with that.
It could be new town, same story and still mean the same thing, I think. It’s about human repetition, I think. I don’t know what any Interpol songs are about, except that it’s usually not anything happy. They’ve been relentlessly unwilling to go the la-di-da route in their writing – not one cheerful song in all these years. But they make bleakness sound so appealing and sexy, you hardly miss the sun. This is music for people who like to burrow down in their cynicism. It’s for long crushing nights alone with too many stimulants in your system. It’s for when you’re fooling yourself that being miserable makes you more interesting. That’s a fleeting state of mind for most of us, and luckily. But the best gloomy music still sounds good even when you’re happy.
It’s a beautiful spring day and the very thing that I need is a morose drone. To dampen any excessively high spirits, you see. So I may just spend the next few hours listening to Interpol, who are a band best suited to the dark depths of a sub-arctic winter. (Are they very popular in Finland, I wonder?) I’ve always held that there’s no wrong time to revisit your own sub-arctic depths. Especially when you’re having the audacity to feel good about your life. That’s when you really need to balance the four humors.
I really, really love songs about hard living. They give me something to aspire to! Not everybody can live the highs and lows of rock stars, because most of us don’t have the drug budget to disappear into a never-ending bender, but we can have a taste of it for a weekend, if we’re brave enough. Apparently, though, according to real legit research, most people don’t even bother; not everybody even partakes in the heavenly nectar of fermented grains and vegetables (huh?) and waking up with chemical burns all over your epiglottis because what you inhaled last night turned out to not be cocaine is far from a universal experience (double huh?). Turns out Nancy Reagan’s hard work paid off after all! Recreational drug use among young people is at an all time low, according to social anthropologists who’ve dedicated their lives to studying the ways of the Millennials. (Never mind that right now heroin is the Acai smoothie of the working class.) It’s ironic that our permissive godless secular capitalist society has somehow led to a generation that’s collectively doing less dumb shit than the previous ones. Less drugs, more social activism, less teenage pregnancy, higher literacy rates, etc. But that still leaves precious little to relate to for those of us who consider all-night benders as normal as going to the grocery store. It’s like the more society changes the more it still frowns on killing brain cells as a lifestyle option. Perhaps visiting altered states is best left to people who have something to gain from it; the artists and musicians and poets and visionaries. People whose job is to explore and to suffer and to kill brain cells and to tell something useful or entertaining about it.
I imagine that Interpol must be tired of being compared to Joy Division (though it is an honor) and it’s an uncreative thing for a critic to write, but damn, this song reeeaallly reminds me of Joy Division. Not just because everything disaffected and depressing screams Joy Division. Intentionally or not, there’s a lyrical echo of Day of the Lords that’s impossible to miss. That classic song is as bleak as the Holocaust, which is what I think it might actually be about. This one is merely about love. Still, I can’t unhear the common thread. Bodies obtained may remain.
A particular favorite from one of my favorite relatively new discoveries. I’ve been told that Interpol is great live, and that’s evident from this clip. It’s a performance both dramatic and intimate. It even evokes some of the great goth depressingtons of yore that the band has been (often cheaply) compared to. This could well have been a Joy Division song, and I wouldn’t lightly accuse anyone of channeling Ian Curtis. (People who purposely channel Ian Curtis are lazy schmucks.) It’s gnomic and grand, even if falls apart on paper. The meaning is in the delivery. It’s in the image. It’s in the tension that builds from that first arpeggio.