Turn On the Bright Lights review by Interpol

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  • Released: Aug 20, 2002
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.9 (47 votes)
Interpol: Turn On the Bright Lights

Sound — 10
Many people associate Interpol with Joy Division. True, Paul Banks does sound somewhat similar to Ian Curtis, right down to a few vocal tics. The music of both bands explores the mysterious voids within our society, and Interpol's arrangements are very reminiscent (although not totally) of the '80s wave of post-punk initiated by Joy Division. However, though this record is not exactly "original" or "groundbreaking", it is more than simply a Joy Division sound-alike. 'Turn On The Bright Lights' actually comes across as one of the best debut albums since the turn of the millennium. Right from the outset, one gets the feeling that 'Turn on the Bright Lights' is a release by a band fully in control and aware of it's abilities and direction. The fantastic opener "Untitled" foretells what is to come: lush guitar arrangements, danceable drums and bass, and Paul Bank's intriguing lyrics and welcoming voice. Most of the guitar work makes use of clean or semi-overdriven guitar tones. Reverb, tremolo (pedals) and delay all help to give the band a full sound. The album rarely breaks into full-on rock, though the album seems as if it is walking this edge throughout most of this length. "Say Hello To The Angels" is possibly the most up-tempo song, and the clever "PDA" boasts a beautiful guitar harmony. One of the standout tracks is "NYC", a song which at first seems rather simple; however, overwhelming tremolo usage from Daniel Kessler's guitar and effective keyboard work build up an intense emotional response from the listener. The catchy feel of "Obstacle 1" and "Roland" help to give the album drive through the more sombre songs like "Hands Away". The lovely closer "Leif Erikson" also features some organ-like synthesiser which brings the album to an emotional close. Fans of traditional rock may not instantly warm to this album as it features a lack of guitar solos; however, those who have come to appreciate intelligently written guitar passages which feature harmony will find this album instantly grabbing.

Lyrics — 8
As a lyricist, Paul Banks is a confusing study, and consequently, listeners are divided into two camps. On the one hand, some people believe that Paul Banks is a genius, and that his ability to create ironic lyrics about love, hate, sex and the dark side of relationships is unmatched by anyone currently in the rock world. Others believe that he simply comes up with lyrics at the last minute, which would explain the unimaginative track names (although "Stella was a Diver and she was Always Down is pretty damn cool). Banks, and the other members of Interpol, have been quoted as saying they dislike deciding upon track names, so this partially explains the later. Though not the work of genius, the lyrics of 'Turn on the Bright Lights' are interesting and exploratory. Banks mainly uses his songs to explore the issue of romantic relationships, and all sides of this issue. "Say Hello to the Angels" and "Stella was a Diver and she was Always Down" and "Obstacle 2" all focus on the masculine animal-like desire, or what could be classed as "I want you baby" songs. Rather than supplementing his ego in traditional rock'n'roll style, Banks comes across as a romantic joker in these songs more than anything else, particularly on "Say Hello" and "Stella". The other side of Interpol focuses on the dark side of relationships: breakup, lovers who have drifter apart, confusion and starting again. Some may class this as gloomy, but alongside the full arrangements this gloom is overridden. Banks' welcoming voice also plays a significant part in this: he never sounds like he is about to break into tears or that the sad scenes he describes are affecting him in any way. His delivery suggests that he remains a part of this, which heavily contributes to the overall success of the album, making it one which is very listenable and not depressive.

Overall Impression — 9
Though probably not for traditional rock fans, this album should still be given a few listens. It is at this point when one realises the brilliance of the album and the value it has to offer. The mood is an important feature of the album as it moves through many. Consequently, there is an Interpol song for every mood that you can think of: sad, happy, amused, reflective, aroused, angry, frustrated and many others. Overall, the tight arrangements, intelligent lyrics and clever song-craft make this album listenable above all else. The songs stand up to repeated listens and offer more with each subsequent listen. Though it is not entirely original, this album will stun you with its worth.

9 comments sorted by best / new / date

    this is amazing writing man. really good. but you should note that this is a review of an album, not of daniels guitar sounds
    Paul Lambeth
    renegadeo6o6 wrote: this is amazing writing man. really good. but you should note that this is a review of an album, not of daniels guitar sounds
    Guitar sounds come into an album quite a lot.. and this person's also described the lyrics and vocal styles very well. Great review. I must say, Interpol are.. one of those bands, of which there are about 1, which I'm never sure if I like them or not, or if I like the song even when I'm listening to it. I don't know how to describe it, but it's very haunting and eerie but enjoyable.
    interpol are great and surely if this is a website called 'ultimate guitar' one is hardly surprised when a review mentions guitars. gd review and their guitar are cooL and cleverly written
    i can remember hearing this album for the 20th time or something and suddenly it clicked and till now i can't get away from it. it's definitly not my all time favouruite but sometimes i just need to listen to it like once in 3 months. it has something very special around it and i think you will do yourself a favour if you give this nice peae of art a chance!
    Paul Lambeth
    Love their use of deviating bass lines too... I hate to write bass lines that just follow the guitar chords of the songs, they really give songs substance.
    Hazen Zero
    This is a great album, and I just want to say that the bass line in "Obstacle 1" is probably my favorite bass line of all time.
    IMHO the best album from the last ten years. Still holds up strongly today. This would be one album I'd take to a desert island.