Of all the artists that could be compared to a lone sheep among a pack of ravenous wolves, Interpol may have been the most deserving. Sure, “Turn on the Bright Lights” cemented the band as contemporary post-punk torchbearers, but each successive album found the group increasingly at odds with itself both creatively and personally.
Dragged deeper and deeper into the whirlwind of backlash from fans and critics alike, Interpol’s misfortune peaked with the trashing of its fourth, self-titled album and the departure of longtime bassist Carlos Dengler. It would’ve been easy—smart even—to count Interpol dead and gone. But you’d never know it from the band’s fifth studio outing, “El Pintor.”
Though it lacks entirely in innovation, “El Pintor” succeeds in creating a wholly unified aural experience over its 10 tracks. The record never fails in its evocation of a late night drive through dead city streets, fueled by a restless mind swarmed with regrets. No track better captures this aesthetic than album opener “All the Rage Back Home,” which begins with a morose piece of indie balladry before erupting into action with frontman Paul Banks’s propulsive basslines. More than just an early highlight, it’s the sound of sorrow converted into pure energy.
Energy, however, is only part of Interpol’s equation on album number five. Intelligent songwriting decisions reveal themselves track after track, slowly showing that the band is perfectly capable of learning from past mistakes. Take “My Blue Supreme,” for instance, which finds Interpol running through an irresistable beat colored by melancholic chords before completely bursting apart in the chorus. It feels far more clever than it actually is, but it’s ultimately irrelevant given just how convincing the move is.
For longstanding fans that have yet to become irreparably jaded, “El Pintor” may just be one of the year’s most compelling “phoenix from the ashes” stories. It’s the sound of a band left buried and done in the dirt not dusting themselves off but confidently returned as if they’d never been down to begin with. Sharp, honest and surprisingly strong, “El Pintor” deserves to be heard by Interpol veterans and newcomers alike.
Verdict: Interpol rishes from the ashes of adversity to meet success for the first time in years.