Paul Banks - Banks
By: Rob Gannon
Despite his recent mainstream exile, it’s increasingly clear that the most talented of the Interpol gang would seem to have been Carlos “where are you now?” Dengler. Nonetheless, the band needed a voice of sufficient gravitas to bridge their revivalist post-punk posturing and immaculately noir tailoring, and Paul Banks was and is that voice, a dour baritone of wholly distinct proportions.
If the rumours of Dengler being a reluctant bassist were true, then so too could those be of Banks being an unsure frontman. It’s an argument certainly given weight by Banks’s first solo foray, an LP which appeared in 2009 under the name of Julian Plenti. This alter-ego is no more however. Now we just have Paul Banks and an album economically entitled Banks. With this grand unveiling we might therefore have expected some great surge of confidence, a stepping out of the literal and metaphorical shadows of Interpol. Instead we frequently find Banks stripped back rather than bare.
There’s an almost acoustic offering in the shape of “Arise, Awake”, for example, but so too is there a raft of anaemic emoting, which causes Banks to run for cover, reverting to type be it subconsciously or not, just as he did as Plenti. Banks isn’t hiding any more that’s for sure, but he’s also opening himself up for attack in the same manoeuvre – and he gives plenty of ammunition to the naysayers with the fairly terrible lyrical threats of the otherwise solid “I’ll Sue You”.
There are however silver linings amongst the running order and, interestingly, these most often occur when Banks steps back from the mic. The patient instrumental “Lisbon” is a good, showing range free of vocal comparison. Earlier he finds further success sounding like a different man altogether on the better half of the single “The Base”, which could be received as new Sufjan Stevens material with little disbelief. Built on angsty loops from the movie Blackout, strings and a playfulness elsewhere absent, “Another Chance” is worthy of note also. Here, finally, Banks sound like Banks the musician, not Banks the voice.
It would seem ultimately though that it’s still too soon for Banks to shake his grim caricature, but let’s not write him off too quickly, for the closer “Summertime Is Coming” finds some of his misplaced passion and it’s a good place to leave the Banks project too. His is a legacy that no-one really wants to shoot down and with this strong ending he just about spirits himself away to live another day.
Advised downloads:: “Another Chance” and “The Base”.
Banks is released October 22nd 2012 on Matador.