When a band have been going for over two decades, they might profit by asking themselves ‘have we got anything more to say?’ On their latest EP A Fine Mess, Manhattan indie-rock band Interpol retreat from such a question. In seeking to adopt the streaming-age practice of lighter releases between albums, the group show themselves to be lacking the gusto of their contemporary peers, while only succeeding in adding a painfully mediocre project to an over-inflated discography.
With the five tracks clocking in at 17 minutes, things are tightly wrapped and to the point. Holding none of the soft and wide-eyed shoegaze of Interpol’s earlier work, these tracks are fuzzy and accessible rockers: crammed with sharp guitars and thumping drums; jumping from verse to chorus with intent. Opener and highlight Fine Mess is energetic and gritty, frenzied guitars stripping back into a crunching bass riff, while in the back-end electronic drums and drones pull the song to murky depths.
The songs feel trapped in rigid formulas and not given room to breathe, they come out mechanical and disinterested in themselves... These are still solidly assembled post-punk tunes, but they end up wallowing in their dated genre, without the urge to climb beyond sonic adequacy.
However, as the EP rolls on I can’t help but think the band don’t believe in this ‘point’ they are trying to make. The songs feel trapped in rigid formulas and not given room to breathe, they come out mechanical and disinterested in themselves. By the final track Thrones, the moody vocals and scaling riffs drudge the project to an end with all the thrill of a surgical procedure. These are still solidly assembled post-punk tunes, but they end up wallowing in their dated genre, without the urge to climb beyond sonic adequacy.
Lead singer Paul Banks just makes matters worse... no longer possessing the baritone croon that emotively swelled across the guitar-scapes. On A Fine Mess, his voice is flat and over-saturated in the mix. At times this works to effect. On the title track he’s unhinged and giddy amidst the melee of guitars, detailing a lifestyle of detached hedonism before dropping to deliver the chorus with a stony swagger: “You and me, make a fine mess”, though he mostly comes across distant and uncompelling, failing to deliver the passion that these songs allude to.
The Weekend, a story of lovers wishing to extend a “magical” weekend indefinitely, washes past like one of the “non-discrete” weekdays the song describes. While the instrumental heights of No Big Deal fall tone-deaf due to Banks’s empty conviction, lines like “From the beach to the strip club” can’t help coming out gratingly awkward, or boring. He’s most successful when he probes the existential void.
On Real Life, reality and imagination, or delusion, clash together and crumble: “All these secondary lives I fall into/unbalanced beam, a step unseen, a fake”. You begin to feel the disillusionment of a middle-aged rock star, but things hardly expand further.
Overall, A Fine Mess misses the charismatic and jaunty quality that Interpol have delivered in the past. Instead, it rings out as overly self-serious, morbid and unenthused. Ageing musicians content to let their sound age with them.
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Released: 17 May 2019