[sic] Magazine

Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights, Tenth Anniversary Edition

“I feel nothing but good things about that time period”
Daniel Kessler,

Can it be a tenth anniversary already? I remember it like it was yesterday. Great albums tend to sound like nothing before. Revolver , Autobahn , It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back , Loveless ….. groundbreaking, life changing, moving the needle. TOTBL must be one of those exceptions that proves the rule. TOTBL broke no new ground. Instead sounded like myriad brilliant past music. It weaved elements of Television , The Smiths , Joy Division … Hell, any number of classic Manchester bands. And they did it so competently, so stylishly (a word we’ll come back to) that by the end of their debut they stood apart. Interpol revived post-punk.

And for a couple of years they bossed it.

This was an album that unified generations. I speak as an older listener, raised on a diet of eighties post-punk and never quite weaned off it during leaner times. The nineties were far from awful. Some great music originated there but it was slim pickings for those of us looking for weirdness, wonder or icy, detached gloom. That said, TOTBL has more than nostalgia going for it. The running order is superb – ‘Untitled’ the perfect launching point – guitars sounding like like alarm bells when the battery is running low. Carlos Dengler’s bass envelops everything like a blanket of fog and the bright lights kick in.

I like to think of ’Untitled’ as the aperitif with ‘Obstacle 1’ the first dish. Everyone has their own favourite Interpol track but surely this can never be far behind. ‘Obstacle 1’ still thrills after ten years, jabbing guitar licks recall Marquee Moon but let’s be honest, Verlaine ‘s albums seems pedestrian by comparison.

Structural perfection is cemented by the sombrely beautiful closing track ‘Leif Erikson’ one of music’s great ‘terminals’. But what makes TOTBL one of my favourite albums is the fact that pretty much all of the stopping points between are fantastic tourist attractions of their own. ‘NYC’, ‘PDA’, ‘Hands Away’, ‘Stella….’…. ahhhh, such memories.

“This (music) was the one thing I was serious about in my life”.
Paul Banks, on the suits.

Much was made of the bands image, the smart clothing and their almost elitist stance on style. Bassist Carlos D became something of a focal point for the band, allowing the more detached front man Paul Banks to do what he does best, namely – sing. In fact Carlos was something of a favourite with many fans. His distinctive bass playing style owes NOTHING to the likes of Wobble or Hook . I can only described it as ‘equestrian’. One minute he brings out the trot, the next, the gallup. At times, Dengler’s bass seems at odds with the rest of the music. Everything else, Sam Fogarino ‘s drumming, Daniel Kessler ‘s stabbing guitar licks and Bank’s precise lyrics seem minimalist and focused while the bass gallivants all over the place. And yet it works. And works wonderfully.

Now to the re-issue. Worth picking up? Yes it is. The second disc contains a number of classic EP or B-side songs I recall being pretty obsessive about back in the day. ‘Specialist’, ‘Song Seven’ and ‘A Time To Be So Small’ are all up there with the group’s best work. I know that the last two mentioned there reappeared around the Antics era but I always favoured these original versions. Interpol just seemed untouchable to me at the time of TOTBL . 48 pages of photos and a third disc of videos and live footage make up the deluxe package.

When you arrive at New York’s JFK airport and ride the Air Train to connect with the Subway system you pass a sign somewhere in Queens that says “Welcome to New York City, twinned with Manchester, England” . You don’t really. But you should. You would if you were listening to TOTBL . I recall the day I first heard it so powerfully. It was the day a Mancunian gloom fell upon New York City and bright lights lit up my world.

I wasn’t even there. Didn’t have to be. New York came to me. New York cared.

Reissue at Interpol website

The noughties – a decade in music (Interpol)