Album Review: Interpol – El Pintor

Four years after the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler, New York rockers Interpol finally returned with new music this year in the form of El Pintor, an album which takes you on a journey from start to finish without letting go. It was a long time coming, especially after the turbulent times Interpol had gone through of late.

Opening with Paul Banks’ hypnotic vocals and sharp guitars, All the Rage Back Home goes on to pick up the pace as Banks claims, “I keep falling, maybe half the time” over a mix of pacey drums, jangly guitars and distorted bass. It gets rather epic towards the end as it builds up with intertwining guitar solos, soaring vocals and intense drumming, which lead perfectly into My Desire. A twangy guitar riff makes way for a sudden groove in the drums and bass, as Banks rather fragilely sings about love and desire. A groove-laden guitar solo precedes an epic final section, before the straightforward rock of Anywhere encompasses a large, memorable chorus of “you know all about me, that’s what’s so frightening”. Same Town, New Story seems to reference the changes Interpol went through since Dengler’s departure, with disjointed guitar chords and a repetitive guitar melody adding further groove to the track. It stays mellow for the most part, ever so slightly increasing in intensity towards the end. My Blue Supreme continues with pipe organs and lyrics depicting love and jealousy, as Banks sings, “someone that I’m dying to be, is cruising in my Blue Supreme”. “When love comes honey, show it, so many others blow it” he further murmurs over a mix of hazy guitars and synthesizers as the track comes to an abrupt-ish end just after 3 minutes. Distorted bass riffs and effect-laden vocals introduce the depressingly titled Everything Is Wrong, as Banks’ booming vocals become even more hypnotic.

Breaker 1 brings us just over the halfway mark with gloomy chords and a space centre plead of, “come back, come back Breaker 1” which becomes a collection of melancholy lyrics and Interpol-by-numbers instrumentation. The overlaying vocal tracks and synths make it increasingly tense and gloomy affair, before Ancient Ways picks the pace up a bit more on one of El Pintor’s more upbeat songs. “Fuck the ancient ways” sings Banks over an amalgamation of distortion-laden guitars, fuzzy bass and uptempo drumming. Tribal-esque drumming and an anthemic riff follow on Tidal Wave, which is by far the best song on the album. Its big chorus, jangly guitars and hazy vocal lines perfectly accompany the doom and gloom of El Pintor as Banks warns of “a flood coming soon” before repeated wails of “a tidal wave, a tidal wave” add plenty of dramatic effect. Tremolo-picked guitars and breakbeat-styled drums on Twice As Hard bring El Pintor to a melancholic yet epic ending, with the song perfectly climaxing thanks to a mixture of pure intensity, emotion and Paul Banks’ fantastic vocals.

El Pintor is by far one of the best albums Interpol has ever released, seen in particular on the melancholic grooves of Same Town, New Story and the wondrous Tidal Wave. El Pintor also sees Paul Banks starting to use more falsetto than before, something which he used to stray away from. With a big world tour approaching, Interpol will definitely be satisfying plenty of current fans with El Pintor whilst also winning over plenty of new fans (like myself). If this album is anything to go by, we’ll definitely be seeing Interpol grow even bigger over the course of the next year or two.