Beware the gloom mood descending on downtown. It’s been four years since Interpol’s last album and even longer since they’ve put out a cohesive piece of music. With El Pintor, their fifth album, the New York City band regains their footing.
From the very first ache of “All The Rage Back Home” the new album falls into that familiar Interpol tone. The morose hypnotism of singer/guitarist Paul Bank’s voice. The full-speaker swirl of Daniel Kessler’s repetitive guitar and Sam Fogarino’s jerky-lean drum beats.
El Pintor is Interpol’s first full session without the assistance of founding member and bassist Carlos Dengler. He left after the completion of their fourth, self-titled album in 2010 and took his gun holster with him. Dengler was a main factor in forging the sound and iconography that Interpol can now claim as their own.
It’s relieving then, that Dengler’s absence hasn’t thrown off their direction. In fact, the lineup change has been a positive adjustment. It forced the remaining members to focus on tight, direct songs. Dengler was never replaced. Instead Banks played the bass himself and Brandon Curtis added a lacquer of ambiance with keyboards.
The rainy downtown melancholia that Interpol has perfect over the years is prevalent on songs like “My Desire” and “Everything Is Wrong.” On “Same Town New Story,” Kessler’s guitar flickers while Banks delivers an impassioned story of a suffocating romance. The female suffers through a broken relationship she wishes she could save. “Feels like the whole world / is up on my shoulders,” Banks emotes. The line unspools into the brain.
El Pintor is pulled into the vortex of a fast-spinning whirlpool during the song “Breaker 1.” Banks’s vocal squall challenges a pummeling crescendo of bass, drums and cymbals. The song teeters on the edge of destruction, but falls in line before the end.
Each song is crisp and doesn’t get caught in lingering outros. El Pintor has a depth that outlasts its relatively short set. With ten songs it clocks in at just under forty minutes, but only gets better with each repeat listen.
Interpol just might be better off without Dengler. Since their powerful debut, every album they’ve released has been a lesser effort than its predecessor. El Pintor is easily the group’s best album since Turn On The Bright Lights, the debut that made gloomy New York City seem cool.