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Album of the Week: Interpol prove the lights are still bright with ‘The Other Side of Make-Believe’

Interpol - 'The Other Side of Make-Believe'

20 years ago, Interpol offered up their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights. The record gave a similar jolt to that hot rush of blood that hits you when accidentally kick the lip of a raised paving stone. It was fresh and frenzied with an air of unknowable chemistry. Now, with The Other Side of Make-Believe, they have styled that trip out into the well-honed dance of a gentleman who has lived on a cobbled street for decades. The jolt might not be as raw, but there is still enough unchanged atmosphere in the welter and rousing swagger to proceedings to ensure that the lights are still very bright, and the band are still very much at home in the dive-bar of their dirty discography.

There has always been something obscure about the band, whether that be the off-kilter lyrics that throw you off the second you feel you have a handle on them, the strange way that they can make dissonance sound perfectly melodious, the darkness and the light. There are some great bands where you can put your finger on what they are doing, and you applaud them for pulling it off. However, with Interpol, things have never been that easy. If they’re as gloomy as some people say, then how come certain algorithms have identified them as suitable for the gym?

That same mystery is not only apparent on The Other Side of Make-Believe, it is one of the key assets of its appeal. Interpol have always been a band who occupy their own season in the psyche, a darkened corner to call their own. Their records are not the sort that can pop on at any moment and seamlessly sync with. In other words, to use an awful internet term: they are a mood. That sense sustains on The Other Side of Make-Believe, which is to their credit that they stick to their strength. However, when you listen to the tracks in isolation, there are all kinds of textures.

Tied together on a solid dose Interpol-ism, the songs are given a freedom borne from experience that says, ‘Yeah let’s throw in a bit of a Kevin Parker rhythm section to this one’ with ‘Big Shot City’, or a bit of Albert Hammond Jr.-like fret work for ‘Fables’, or just the full-blown kitchen sink chuck of ‘Passenger’ that staggers on a broken heal between earnest and sparse beginnings, before breaking free from its own vulnerability with a sudden ‘oh what the hell’ attitude as it liberates both the meaning and melody of the track in one bouncy swing. 

Cut in isolation with members scattered across the globe, that piecemeal notion gives a sense of simultaneous falling back, but not necessarily onto the comfort of laurels, and more so a sense of consideration. Things seem reflective in every which way, after all, they’re 20 years on from their debut masterpiece and celebrating 25 years as a band. Thusly, the result is not more of the same in a banal sense, but in an exploration of the weird little nooks and crannies left in the mystique of a sound that they can proudly call their own. This results in a sense of refinement and texture, but maybe not as much of a wallop. 

There are highs and lows on the record, but it never falls below the eye-line of a very curious interest. You might not be wheeling it out in 20 years’ time, but to be this far into a creative splurge and still upholding the integrity of a sound that swamps the mind with obfuscated allure is a feat in itself. If this was a debut, it would certainly be lauded, and 20 years in I’ll be taking my hat off to it all the same, And after that, once more, I’ll be trying to figure it out at 2am, sat on the kitchen tiles, perched up against cabinets, and revelling in the perfectly perverse sound. 

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