Interpol: Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

Hey, remember that time back in the early 00s, when it seemed like there were a dozen much-hyped bands that all sounded kinda like Joy Division?  The baritone vocals reminiscent of Ian Curtis; the bass-driven riffs; the dark goth ambience and angular Gang of Four-esque guitars?

Not that there was anything wrong with (belatedly) picking up the JD mantle; given the long list of post-punk and indie bands readily showing how much they'd been influenced by the Velvets, Big Star, the Stooges, and Television, Joy Division certainly warranted inclusion on this list of highly innovative and influential bands drawing a slew of imitators.

None of which is intended to say Interpol was guilty of slavish imitation; while the Joy Division shadow is hard to deny, they used it as a jumping-off point for their own brand of distinctly New York indie rock, to the point where it was just as easy to say a lot of those other bands sounded kinda like Interpol.  And while the follow-up, Antics, was where they really moved into their own (and included the fantastic "Evil," perhaps their finest single and certainly their most stunningly unforgettable video), and subsequent releases have been reliably solid, the debut album is the one I still turn to a decade and a half later. 

It opens with an ambient untitled instrument before jumping into "Obstacle 1," a terrific, distinctively powerful track with those jagged staccato guitar jabs conversing with the bassline, while Paul Banks, undeniably in full-on Curtis mode, wielding serious passion.  This is surpassed by the next tune, the gorgeous "NYC" (i.e. New York cares), an atmospheric piece that is staggering in its hushed impact.  The rest of the album weaves between those extremes, mostly sticking with upbeat post-punk anthems like "Roland" with occasional returns to spooky urban ambience like "Leif Erikson" (which closed the album out with subtle hints of "Decades," the song closed out Joy Division's second and final studio album).

The album isn't necessarily a comfortable listen, with its pervading darkness, but its foreboding ambience and insistent riffs demand attention.

Here's the video for "Obstacle 1":
...and here's "NYC":
Here's a recent live performance of "Roland":
Finally, while "Evil" was on the next album, the video is one of my favorite things ever (and still gives me nightmares), so here's a little bonus:


  1. Yes, definitely yes. Take some Joy Div. , add the Velvets lyrical style and a dash of Pink Floyd atmospherics. My favorite CD to put on if I have some late night, low traffic driving to do. Nothing like hitting 90 when the rush of Untitled's climax hits.


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