You know you've potentially launched a great music career when you release a debut album that's so good your fans are actually dreading the sophomore slump a year before the album even hits the shelves. Such is the case with Interpol. Their first album, Turn on the Bright Lights, is still one of the best debut albums in the history of alternative rock, and remains one of my top three albums in existence. Depending on my mood, it could also be my favorite album ever.
That made the desire to review Antics essential for me. I knew last year I had to act quickly to grab this album before the TMT vultures started the e-mail battles. Since there are so many people out there who share the same level of respect for Turn on the Bright Lights as me, you could say the pressure is on for the band to meet (or exceed) their previous work. However, I think many fans will believe that even meeting those expectations would be quite an accomplishment.
But now comes the moment I was hoping would not happen, and that's telling you that the new material is a disappointing digression from Turn on the Bright Lights. The upside to that is that it's almost impossible to top their debut. So I guess things could be worse. Thank God it's not.
To me, Turn on the Bright Lights is a perfect album on so many levels. Carlos' bass work is, pound-for-pound, the best I've heard on any pop-rock album, period. Sam's drumming is complex and madly precise. The "interplay" of the two guitars between Paul and Daniel is also very beautiful, even if some will claim it's the least pleasing element. But even though all these components are vaguely present on Antics, the album fails to deliver anything even remotely new or exciting for the band. To be politically correct, I guess you could say it's a very safe effort.
Now, I can honestly say I wasn't expecting Antics to be the best album of the year, but I certainly had higher expectations than this. The best tracks are those that were initially recorded some time ago ("Length of Love" and "A Time To Be So Small"). Perhaps these songs just come from another place than the newer ones -- I don't really know. But for the most part, the rest of the album, particularly the first two songs, is very straightforward Interpol-lite.
My primary complaint with Antics is that lead singer, Paul Banks, jumps too soon to sing on every song; giving each of the them the same structure. The strongest aspect of Turn on the Bright Lights was that the music was given more room to explore, even being somewhat instrumental at times. Antics merely contains songs that sit around the four-minute mark, sounding as if subscribing to the radio format was their only motivation.
Interpol is still one of the more exciting bands out there, particularly when they perform live. But Antics just doesn't do much for me. I guess, in the end, though, it's my expectation that is the true evil here. High expectations can lead to many letdowns. While Antics isn't an album to be thrown in the trash, I feel fairly confident that I won't be spending much time with it over the course of my life. It's basically an album that will attract more fans for the band on a commercial level, but won't do much to retain the older fans who appreciated their darker material. I suppose we'll just have to wait until next time to see if that darker side returns to form.
1. Next Exit
4. Take You on a Cruise
5. Slow Hands
6. Not Even Jail
7. Public Pervert
9. Length of Love
10. A Time To Be So Small