What do you want your legacy to be? Not many of us have to vocalise that issue quite yet. Think about it and you may answer family; or experience; or success. Those things are often mutually exclusive: think of the trade-off between success and stability, where the risks of one prevent the acquisition of the other. At some point, we must ask ourselves which we value more, and thus decide what we wish our legacy to be.
A similar dilemma face bands well into their maturity. Once the young upstart has created, do they then capitalise on their success or try to break new ground, and possibly fail? This question exposes the frailty at the heart of El Pintor, Interpol’s fifth album. Deciding to preserve successes of the past has sacrificed the creative destruction needed to prosper artistically.
Tracks “My Desire” and “My Blue Supreme” remind us of the power of desperation that brought us to Interpol in the first place. They have a knack for finding an internal resonance, a gravity that is impossible to fake. It is immensely pleasing prima facie to experience the Interpol sound again.
In continuing their sound, tweaking but not extending their musical space, Interpol have made an album without a burr, familiar and consistent with their history.
Musical cleanliness goes hand in hand with another concept: sterilisation.
It has not yet gotten that bad. El Pintor is an enjoyable, technically excellent, well-crafted album. But when, on “Anywhere”, Paul Banks cries “I could go anywhere! I could go anywhere!” one is brought, inevitably, back to the realisation that the band could go anywhere. They have decided not to.
Innovate and survive; replicate and die. A fitting, if disappointing, legacy for an Interpol album.