A long time ago now Pitchfork thought Interpol were cool. Now they don’t.
I think convention dictates that I now write a long tirade against Pitchfork or the reviewer. The problem is that I really do understand where the reviewer is coming from. Interpol’s latest album does sound like their last four albums. They’re not a band who have progressed. Well, they have, but it’s only on a few songs and they are micro-progressions audible only to the fan.
I’ve realised over the last decade or so that I actually like repetitive artists. There is a point where their repetition does become stale, but in their peak period – which is often long – they are somehow returning to the same territory with the same actors or musicians and gleaning new meanings out of it. Some of my favourite artists – Fela Kuti, Wes Anderson, and Ozu – are extremely repetitive. There are lots of other examples. Formulaic art of course is a staple of entertainment so this isn’t saying anything really new – formulaic is pretty close to repetitive – so all it is really saying is that it also exists and has value in less mainstream and highbrow artists.
Time, of course, can be unkind. Hemingway is hard to read nowadays but his repetitive concerns and distinctive style were once highly praised. I loved his stuff when I was about 20. Time also flattens things out. What seemed a sudden innovation in an artist’s career is, on reflection, distinctly and recognisably still them in hindsight.
The idea of originality is often overstated. In fact originality is often a trick; the trick of saying something old utilising a new technology or breaking a convention rather than anything else. Not that I am deriding those things – people who see the possibility of technology or how to break a convention and thrill are talented and worthy of acclaim and emulation.
I once read a book about reggae. The author did cover Bob Marley but not in much depth. He reasoned that there wasn’t that much to say about him once you had said your first thing about him. Meaning: Marley’s style stayed the same throughout his career. I think that is fair enough. To me that’s not really a criticism. It’s just a fact. There’s not much difference between Marley’s first and final album. I suppose it’s like comparing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. People often marvel over the rapid development and experimentation of The Beatles. The Stones on the other hand have been ploughing the same furrow for a long long time. Both bands, though, were pretty marvelous in their peak periods.
The Stones often get criticised for being past it, or playing the same shit for 40 years. When you think about jazz musicians or classical musicians who play the same shit for 40 years it sort of seems a lame complaint tied to the idea of being original and relevant and disposable. I really, really don’t want to hear the latest album by the Stones or go to one of their concerts, because I have become too accustomed to their sound and it doesn’t move me anymore. That’s the reason. I am personally bored by their sound. As you may be by Interpol. It’s not because they’re past it, or don’t write hits anymore. How many hits do people need?
Interpol. The thing they do is a bored grandiose sound with chiming guitars and a deadpan arty-nonsensical lyric. It’s bored but mournful and (secretly) yearning . You know the shtick. It’s my shtick. The soundtrack I often have in my head walking to work watching the clouds, and the cars, and the rubbish and the early blossom. In a way the slightly daft lyrics fit too. Beautifully turned logical sentences don’t really suit modernity.
Being in a band like Interpol and reading reviews must be odd. I assume they aren’t trying to break new ground but that is how they get reviewed. “Sounds like the last album” could be a criticism or a commendation. For me, for this band, it is a commendation. If you like Interpol I commend their new album to you. They’re not doing anything new. Thank God.