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Interpol's new CD, "Our Love to Admire," marks a breakthrough. (Jelle Wagenaar)

There's much to admire on Interpol's 'Our Love'

"The Lighthouse," the last song on Interpol's new album, does something extraordinary.

It breathes. It shimmers. It takes its time, lingering like the cobalt smoke rings bassist Carlos D. is fond of blowing onstage.

That sounds pretty unexceptional, doesn't it? Perhaps, but we're talking about Interpol, a band that has acutely honed its taut guitar rock into an art form. With masterly precision and economy, Interpol has always been engaging more for what it keeps clinched in its palm rather than what seeps out.

"Our Love to Admire," the New York quartet's new album out today, digresses from that approach, and that alone marks a breakthrough for Interpol. A band can be forgiven for sounding the same on its first two outings, especially if they're as good as Interpol's debut, 2002's "Turn on the Bright Lights," and its 2004 follow - up, "Antics."

But the third album should make or break a fledgling band, and "Our Love to Admire" does a bit of both. It doesn't sound like either of the first two discs but instead aspires to be something bigger, more epic.

That's a risky venture for a band famous for hammering out its hooks with dogged diligence. Song after song, it has worked beautifully -- from Daniel Kessler's exhilarating two-minute guitar solo that wrapped up "PDA" to Sam Fogarino's propulsive drumming that shot "Slow Hands" into the stratosphere.

"Our Love to Admire" doesn't have many of those addictive moments. The foreboding melancholy of "Turn on the Bright Lights" has eroded into a sound that's less idiosyncratic; by design or accident, that broad-brush aesthetic coincides with the band's move from an indie label (Matador) to a major one (Capitol).

Cast with a palpable sense of portent, the album opens in a wash of minor chords that ends with "Pioneer to the Falls." It's a bold and sinister introduction, and it's a shame it didn't carry over to the rest of the album.

More so than the generic first single, "The Heinrich Maneuver," the album makes a memorable first impression with "Mammoth" and "No I in Threesome," the latter of which showcases some of Paul Banks's most lucid songwriting: "Through the storms and the light/ Baby, you stood by my side/ And life is wine/ But there are days in this life/ When you see the teethmarks of time/ Two lovers divide."

Otherwise, Banks is as enigmatic as ever, sketching abstract lyrics that sound better adrift in your head than spoken aloud. On "Pioneer to the Falls," he intones: "Show me the dirt pile/ And I will pray that the soul can take/ Three stowaways."

Hey, your guess is as good as mine. And maybe that's how Interpol wants to keep it.

Here's a band that has loosened its grip, but not so much that you'd forget we're still talking about Interpol.