I knew for certain that Interpol's follow up to Turn on the Bright Lights was destined for a substandard sound the second I walked into the Interpol show in Seattle last May. It was the merchandise table that confirmed it. Packed on this table was enough so merchandise that even the folks at Disney would have blushed. The regular items were all there: shirts, CDs and pins. But, as though one needed to live the brand, Interpol also had hats, hoodies, and even lighters, yes lighters. Light your cigarettes like the guys in the band while all your clothes proclaim your love for New York's finest. Call this a minor detail, call it me being a snob, but I knew then that Interpol had shifted their footing from indie band to marketable image and the subsequent step would be a subpar release. This isn't to say Antics, doesn't kick the ass off of 80% of all other albums this year, but to compare Antics to Turn on the Bright Lights is not much of a comparison at all.
The good thing about Turn on the Bright Lights was that Interpol had nothing to lose. If they failed, they could blame the music industry for not appreciating their style of music and even make bold claims about music's inability to open their ears to new things, blah blah all that 'we're ahead of our time' bullshit. However, seeing that every indie freak east of the Pacific Ocean has now chosen Interpol for their art school graduation music, the follow up for Turn on the Bright Lights had to deliver.
'Next Exit' has some great organ to open the album, but the song doesn't go anywhere that the band hasn't gone before. Nothing grabs you and declares its impeding arrival. 'Evil' has a grade 4 bass line to open the song; all that saves the song is the great drumming and the quick-spitting lyrics. But in typical Interpol fashion, the song's climax comes when one expects it and everything else happens exactly when expected. The intro to 'Narc' sounds like a 13 year old on Boxing Day as he practices the three notes he's figured out on the shiny Fender he got from dad. The song goes on to become yet another Interpol song with the vocals ripping through the screech-a-thon guitars and the drums pounding away like mad. 'Take You on a Cruise' fails to ignite the Interpol assault that many earlier songs did. While there is some great build up, there's nothing near the end to symbolize a truly collosal finish. 'Slow Hands' has all the pauses, highhat-intensive drumming, and break out assaults that makes Interpol the great band they are. As a song, it shows the proper progression from their first album to their second. It is the song that this whole album should sound like, but unfortunately there's not many others on the album that stand up to it. 'Not Even Jail' opens with a pounding drum beat, in comes a tiny bass line, and on the song carries on to become another of the best songs on the album. Nearly 6 minutes of hard hitting drums, noodling guitars, and break out chords, complete with great pauses filled with some whiny guitar, 'Not Even Jail' stands right beside 'Slow Hands' as the album's high point. Even with these 2 great songs in a row, I couldn't shake the impression that this album could have been much better had Interpol stuck to their original plan of creating strong, fresh music in not-so-fresh times. By the time 'C'mere' rolled around, I admit I was getting kinda tired of the album. Just when I thought 'Length of Love' was going to release itself into a monster collaberation of spazz drums, super heavy bass, and wanky guitar, the song ended.
When all is said and done, this album delivers exactly what fans were waiting for. That light singing, tight drumming, fat bass notes, and that dreamy yet punchy guitar noise that has made Interpol an amazing band. As I said, this album kicks ass on hundreds of others, but as a follow up to Turn on the Bright Lights, it fails to create the feeling that something important is going on, that something new and stellar is taking place, that maybe The Strokes are not the saviors, but instead that declaration goes to a better-dressed group of chain-smokers from down the street. Perhaps I need a lighter that says Interpol and everything will fall gently into place.