Julian Plenti Julien Plenti Is… Skyscraper

[Matador; 2009]

Styles: men without faces
Others: Interpol with a terrible rhythm section and Garageband loops, anything recorded in the back of a New Jersey restaurant

One needs only to point in Sebadoh’s direction to illustrate that side projects must establish concrete identities. After all, without Sebadoh’s shit-fi aesthetic and piss-poor lyrical attitudes, Lou Barlow’s outfit would’ve sounded as shiftless and mired as, well, The Folk Implosion. There’s no mistaking Barlow’s seething angst, misanthropy, and self-deprecation from anybody else’s, and it goes a long way towards distinguishing his brand name.

For this reason alone, Interpol frontman Paul Banks shouldn’t have bothered releasing his debut solo full-length under the moniker Julian Plenti; after all, there are other members of Interpol who are more musically talented (machine-like drummer Sam Fogarino) and flat-out interesting (the formerly lecherous, Italian-greyhound-toting bassist Carlos Dengler). Indeed, Banks is awfully uncharismatic and identity-absent for a frontman of one of rock’s bigger major-label acts; even his refusal to reveal the meaning behind Interpol’s nonsensical lyrics made him look more like a talent-bereft mayor of Oz than a brooding genius.

Naturally, Banks brings his lyrical F-game to Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper. There’s lots of ruminative garbage about “light” and “waiting” aired out, and he’s still rhyming words like “size” and “fantasize.” That’s alright, though; unless you’re someone who grew up thinking Duran Duran was “dark,” there’s always been more allure in Interpol’s precision-guided percussion and dense production.

While it may initially be heartening to learn that Skyscraper sounds like Interpol, what it really sounds like is a slapped-together collection of Interpol demos. Consider as proof the unfinished, unfulfilled guitar bends of “Girl on the Sporting News,” the poorly-EQ’d crawl of “Fly As you Might,” or the never-ending repetition of “No Chance Survival.” Skyscraper feels like an on-the-cheap record with inexpensive ideas, a theory that culminates with the MIDI’d-to-death processed horns and faux-Springsteen burn of “Unwind.”

And so, a slightly boring rock frontman adopts a pseudonym to make a solo album, and it sounds like his main band, recorded in a just-passable studio. At this point, Paul Banks is so ineffably blah that his audience can’t be expected to care for much longer. Luckily, the world of Interpol is filled with enough posturing that his day job practically requires detached bullshit.

1. Only If You Run
2. Fun That We Have
3. Skyscraper
4. Games For Days
5. Madrid Song
6. No Chance Survival
7. Unwind
8. Girl On The Sporting News
9. On The Esplanade
10. Fly As You Might
11. H

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