Releasing a self-titled album mid-career is a textbook “back to basics” ploy, deliberately signaling a new start to a fan base that might be losing interest. Hitting the reset button isn’t a bad move for the men of Interpol, who over-reached and underperformed on 2007’s Our Love To Admire. But judging from the joyless atmospherics of Interpol, the band that was once the epitome of urban stylishness has only an intermittent grasp of what made its music so alluring and sexy back in the early ’00s. After spending three albums trying to live down the omnipresent Joy Division comparisons its swaggeringly club-friendly music never fully deserved, Interpol spends much of its latest mired in drone-y, mid-tempo miserablism that finally grows tiresome in the album’s second half. Getting back to basics is fine for Interpol; Interpol is just a little too basic.
Part of the problem is that the album’s namesake is still stuck in the same corner it painted itself into with 2002’s Turn On The Bright Lights, the rare debut with a sound so well-conceived that the band couldn’t refine it on subsequent releases. But Interpol’s turn into full-blown Ian Curtis worship on turgid tracks like “All Of The Ways” and “Safe Without” all but eradicate the joie de vivre that made Interpol’s early songs burn so brightly in the darkness of post-9/11 New York City.
Not all of Interpol is a drag, though the highlights come early: “Summer Well” cultivates an insistently danceable groove that culminates with one of those extended, bass-driven outros that made Interpol’s name, and “Lights” shamelessly milks all the drama it can out of its slow-building climb to Paul Banks’ pained chorus. But even in its best moments, Interpol is an echo of a more exciting time in the band’s history, a period that seems increasingly distant with each new release.