Interpol put out a 10th anniversary edition of Turn on the Bright Lights about three years ago. My initial reaction was shock. Not so much that it was getting a re-release - it’s an album that more than deserved it - but shocked that ten years had actually passed since I’d first heard it.
Back when it was released, Turn on the Bright Lights was somewhat of a triumph. It painted a stark, barren picture using an incredibly vibrant brush. But it also led many to peg Interpol as depressing or moody. The type of band you can only get away with putting on your local bar’s TouchTunes after 1am, when drunken commotion shields it from everyone’s ears but your own. Put them on any time before then, and you’re sure to get a loud (and well-deserved) objection from some voice among the stools.
Turn on the Bright Lights was a bit of an outlier when it was first released. It differed from a lot of offerings circulating at the time. While most acts were focused on portraying a certain cool by way of unkemptness, Interpol was pulling off that same cool by emphasizing precision and aplomb. They dressed the part as well - looking like the dapper, disenchanted men stuck mixing drinks behind the bar as opposed to the young kids downing them at the far end of it.
Interpol’s sophomore release Antics - an amazing album in its own right - actually outsold Turn on the Bright Lights. Despite this, it fell victim to the dreaded curse of the sequel. Like Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and Fletch Lives before it, Antics never really stood a chance. It’s not that it was a bad album - by almost all accounts it was pretty damn good. It just couldn’t live up to the original.
After Antics came Our Love to Admire. Another great album, just one that was yet again slightly less than its predecessor. They followed that up a few years later with their self-titled fourth album - easily the most underwhelming of the lot.
Fast forward to 2014 and the release of their fifth album El Pintor. It showcased a definite turnaround for the band (i.e. a new release that was better than its predecessor), bucking the trend that had ridden them since the release of Antics. El Pintor represented a return to the nimble, driving guitar riffs and undulating base lines Interpol had perfected on their first two albums. It signaled a true return to form. Back was that hard-edged, tailored cool they’d cornered the market on over a decade ago.
Here’s hoping they find a way to serve up something even better next go-round.