You may be aware that Interpol peaked too early.
Their debut album was as good as it got. Sure, the next record was good – very good, in fact. You could make a case for the third album being better than the second... Hell, it’s certainly better than anything that came after it.
But the fact remains that Interpol have never made anything that approaches the quality of their saturnine masterpiece Turn on the Bright Lights. Very few bands have.
So it’s hard to imagine now, six albums in, what Interpol fans want. Much like their contemporaries The Strokes, their debut album made their name but doomed them to suffer diminishing returns by the very nature of its success. Ergo, every Interpol album and every Strokes album is compared, unfavourably, to their first.
Where The Strokes’ most recent record was safe, solid, and played to their simplest strengths, Marauder finds Interpol taking a few chances - not least Paul Banks’ maniacal Ozzy Osbourne impression on “The Rover”. Seriously, have they heard “Crazy Train”? Listen to how he sings “die” in the first line and try and deny it…
Jokes aside, your enjoyment of Marauder is purely contingent on what it is that you expect Interpol to be at this stage of their career, because you’re never going to get a repeat of that first one. That much is clear.
Across the record, it’s apparent just how remarkably consistent they are. However, the consistency is the issue – most of the tracks are underproduced (by Dave Fridmann, no less), most of the sonic details sound oddly rushed, and the whole thing sounds unfinished.
Yet this is why it’s such a fun album to dig into. Most of the songs sound like first takes. A couple of them sound like they were written minutes before recording.
The jittery, angular guitars on “Stay in Touch” sound improvised and uncharacteristically loose. The drums on “Complicated” sound cheap and oddly flat. There’s a noticeable ‘jammy’ quality to most of the tracks. Paul Banks’ sulking diatribes are infuriatingly terse and alienating.
After maybe three tracks of this kind of ragged glory, you ask yourself whether this is the sound of Interpol finally letting go of expectations, or a sign of their collective creative impotence?
Either way, there are moments here that stack up to your favourite Interpol soundbites. The track closest to the sound and feel of Bright Lights is probably “Flight of Fancy”, which is classic Interpol – a relentless but somewhat sluggish rhythm from Mr Kessler, thunderous drums from Mr Fogarino and inelegant moaning from Mr Banks.
There are other highlights too. The gradually snowballing sonic aggression of “Mountain Child” builds to a fantastically enthralling crescendo. The tar-black sonic details in “NYSMAW” are beautifully constructed, and actually benefit from the scruffy non-production. The hyperactive squalling darkness of “Party’s Over” is labyrinthine and impenetrable, particularly due to Mr Fogarino’s insistent, taut rhythm-making.
Like every Interpol record, listening to Marauder is a draining experience for the right reasons. Their sound is designed to deflate, to alienate, to offer no resolution, to poke and prod at your most depressive tendencies – you could even argue that there are moments where they purposefully try to bore you. If it’s this that you’re after, and no more, then prepare to be pleasantly surprised by Marauder. If you’re just waiting to catalogue it, to see how it stacks up against Turn on the Bright Lights, don’t bother. You’ll only disappoint yourself.