by Erick Trickey
If I could play one song to show off Interpol's talent, it'd be "Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down," the dreamy-moody centerpiece of their first album, Turn On the Bright Lights. The first time I heard it, in a record store, I was drawn to the rhythm guitar's two-chord drone, the lead guitar's repetitive chiming, and the singer's crying out, like Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, to his love or lust object, Stella, who was either drowning or living underwater. The verses crested into a two-part chorus, first a rush of feeling from the lead guitar and then a low, pulsing menace from the rhythm guitar, mixing dream and obsession, passion and dread. I got the store clerk to take the CD out of the player so I could buy it right away.
In the 2000s all the great eras of rock music are being recycled, distilled, infused with new energy. The Strokes echo wiry New York bands from the 1970s, Jet's hooks are lifted from late-1960s British rock superstars, and Ryan Adams influence-checks 1970s singer-songwriters and then 1980s college rockers. Interpol's influence is moody British early-1980s postpunk: the Cure, the Smiths, the Psychedelic Furs.
Critics loved Turn On the Bright Lights it made a lot of best-of-2002 lists but they quickly pigeonholed Interpol as the new Joy Division. Some of Interpol's songs, like "Stella," with chilly guitars and vocals that fixate on a few notes to hypnotic effect, do sound similar to the frigid, spooky Joy Division albums that started postpunk. But Interpol, a quartet of New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties, denied that Joy Division was a major influence. They were more eager to pay respects to the Cure and the Smiths. Some tracks on the first album resemble the Cure's intricate soundscapes ("Untitled," "Hands Away"), while "Say Hello to the Angels" is propelled by a jaunty dash of Smiths-like playfulness.
But the key influence the critics
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