Aural Pleasure

They often come off pretentious in interviews, and their music hardly breaks new ground, but these are really extraneous issues. The New York quartet knowns as Interpol has mastered the melancholy post-punk mien of cross-Atlantic cousins such as Joy Division and The Chameleons.

Unlike the Editors, whose new album strays too far into fluffy Coldplay-esque orchestral atmospherics, Interpol never abandons the stern, terse edges of its sound. There’s always a bitter, curdled sensibility just beneath the surface, creating tension with the swelling synth textures and insistent hooks. Guitars drone, jangle, and slash but are dull as a butter knife, their not-quite-dulcet ring adding to the music’s deadened pulse. Frontman Paul Banks’s dour, declamatory singing style is ideal, singing with such arch gloom and stentorian distance that he should be clad in professorial tweed.

Though there’s nothing different on Interpol’s third album from what the band has done before, they’ve never done it better or more consistently.

Their moody theatrics run wild throughout. On the chunky “All Fired Up,” with its clanging Wire-ish guitar and stuttering dance-floor snare, Banks complains, “I’ve got this soul, it’s all fired up,” leaving a great deal of uncertainty as to whether he’s unusually excited or completely burned out, epitomizing the music’s pervasive ambivalence.

There’s nary a misstep among the 11 tracks, and they’re wonderfully sequenced. Among the many highlights are the reflective “Rest My Chemistry” in which Banks admits, “I’ve lived to the cocaine/ just some rage and three kinds of yes,” the sour, haunting “Pioneer to the Falls,” with its beautiful mid-song break, and the nervy, jagged shimmy of “Heinrich Maneuver,” with its declaration of independence, “I don’t want to read your thoughts anymore.”

These are Banks’s best-written songs to date, striking a clever compromise between Greg
Dulli’s carnivorous cool and the self-conscious malaise of the Moz.

— Chris Parker

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Summer is a time to bask in the warm sun, head to the beach, turn on the radio, and contemplate suicide after hearing Fergie’s moronic new single for the 14,000th time.

Two years ago, with “My Humps,” she and Black Eyed Peas found a way to make seduction about as enticing as a trip to the proctologist (When did referring to any part of your anatomy as “my lovely little lumps” become sexy?). Last year, she did it again, solo-style, with “London Bridge” (When did a British river crossing become a suitable orgasm metaphor?).

This summer, like sadistic clockwork, Fergie tortured us again with “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” but that fetal-position weeper has faced stiff competition from “Beautiful Girls,” Sean Kingston’s ubiquitous cheese-grater hit. With its “Stand By Me” bass sample, Kingston’s strangely exaggerated West Indies accent (yes, he grew up in Jamaica, but no one really sounds like this), and its callow, love-martyr lyric (“they’ll make you suicidal, suicidal, when they say it’s over”), this tune wore out its welcome pretty fast. But just to make sure we fully appreciated its repetitous charms, local pop radio seemingly kept the song on rotation every 15 minutes for the duration of the summer.

The 17-year-old Kingston is being hyped as a prodigy who connects the dots between reggae, hip-hop, doo-wop, and modern pop. Without question, he’s a seriously girl-crazy kid with a major ’80s fetish.

“Got No Shorty” lifts David Lee Roth’s arrangement of Cab Calloway’s “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and puts a hip-hop beat on it, with Kingston on the prowl for “a little shorty with a big ol’ butt.”

Even when Kingston contemplates the slums of Jamaica, poverty stirs no political thoughts in him. He simply assures his girl that if she stays close to him, he’ll keep her safe, and promises “we can leave the slums for the paradise.”

Burning Spear, it ain’t, but say this for Kingston: His first album is nowhere near as annoying as his first single would suggest.


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