Top 100 Artists of the Decade: #92 Interpol
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
Please read our introduction to learn about our nominating and ordering process.
I want to kick off this article with the obvious namedrop: Joy Division. Yes, Interpol championed this decade's revival of dark and dreary rock, a gate they opened up for droves of imitators. However, because it's relevant, I want to do a complete 180 and sweep that same namedrop out of the way. Here's an exchange from an interview of drummer Sam Fogarino:
AL: What expectations should people have when they come see Interpol live?
Sam: They should have no expectations and come and be surprised. They can smoke pot or take speed: it doesn't matter to me. That's the thing that bugs me about Joy Division: we are not always this depressing and hyper-serious band. There's a lot upbeat stuff and different moods. There's a cinematic quality about the music of Interpol. That's our common ground. Musically there is no common influence. We do have an affinity with film, atmosphere, and different literatures, and that has more influence on what we do than a fucking Cure song.
And that is precisely why they find themselves on this list. The knockoff acts that followed Interpol - and if you were conscious in 2002 when Turn on the Bright Lights hit, you're well aware how long that floodgate stayed open - these knockoff bands cribbed only the depressing elements, only the dense wash of guitars and sinister neuroticisms that branded Interpol as 80s dark rock revivalists. But this was not really Interpol at all. Humane things can happen in dark rooms, and if you pay attention to much of Bright Lights - "Say Hello to the Angels" or "Obstacle 2" or "Roland" or the upswing on the latter half of "Leif Erikson," or even start with the album's title, for Christ's sake - you see the humanity slip through, even against the odds that the instrumentation presents. Paul Banks' lyrics are obscure and impressionistic, but they reference in tangential ways real events in Banks' life, and so what comes across is complex and resonant. What we have in Interpol is a blacklight that illuminates, in strange colors, the complexities of human emotion - a trait that spills into the clairvoyance of the Antics' opening organ chords and beyond. They were manic, yes, but their mania is punctured with sudden surges of humanity and clarity. That's a balance that will leave their best work sticking with us for years to come.