Album Review

Interpol in flux, striving to revive

By James Reed
Globe Staff / September 6, 2010

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It’s a tried-and-true tactic in music, the act of self-titling an album to announce this isn’t the same artist you remember. But in Interpol’s case, its eponymous fourth release is clearly meant to remind fans, particularly ones who have strayed in recent years, of the New York band’s beloved roots.

“Interpol,’’ however, rarely brandishes the hallmarks — the majestic slow build, the keen sense of dynamics — that made the group’s 2002 debut, “Turn on the Bright Lights,’’ such a vital document of New York’s resurrected rock scene. It finds the band in a state of flux, having returned to Matador after its lone major-label outing, “Our Love to Admire,’’ failed to catch fire in 2007. It’s also the swan song of bassist Carlos Dengler, an original member who left just as this new album was being finished.

Intentional or not, some of that transition seeps into the music, giving songs room to ramble but nothing resembling a core. First singles “Lights’’ and “Barricade’’ are sonically immaculate, but they’re not especially arresting or rich. Elsewhere, flights of fancy also fall flat. A misplaced piano trill opens and closes “Try It On’’; the instrument is used to greater effect on the soul-searching plea “Always Malaise (The Man I Am).’’

When the band plumbs the tension between its individual players, the album starts to simmer. On “All of the Ways,’’ Daniel Kessler’s ricocheting guitar lines shimmer like ominous preludes to Paul Banks’s disaffected vocals. As a coda, “The Undoing’’ flickers with moments of whimsy, from snippets of Spanish to cinematic crescendos. It’s heady and disorienting, a sensation you wish this album inspired much more often. (Out tomorrow)

Interpol, ‘Interpol’
ESSENTIAL “All of the Ways’’