Interpol – El Pintor

written by: September 5, 2014
Album-art-for-El-Pintor-by-Interpol Release Date: September 8, 2014


When a band member leaves, either on good terms or bad, how remaining members choose to respond can be debilitating. After losing bassist Carlos Dengler, Interpol’s fifth studio album El Pintor stands as a risky move. However, over the course of Interpol’s 10 years on the scene, the band’s grown well prepared for the ups and downs associated with an extended musical career. As a band previously solely rock-based, Interpol has opted for an album infused with poppier beats and noticeable synthesizers; the band creates a sound that has the potential to compete with indie bands currently soaring through Top 40 rankings.

Much like Kings of Leon and the Foo Fighters, a heavy guitar and percussion presence is notable throughout the entirety of El Pintor. Thanks to vocalist Paul Banks the resulting sound isn’t that of a Nirvana wanna-be band still trying to make it in 2014; instead, the album has a cool, laidback style, keeping listeners engaged for 10 tracks. While maintaining aspects of the sound that launched the band’s fame, Interpol incorporates the use of keys, synthesizers, and backing rhythms more so than in prior albums. The emergence of these sounds could, in part, be due to the time Interpol spent touring with U2 in 2011, or the nearly 4 year hiatus taken for the band to recoup.

Judging by the song title, “Same Town, New Story” might be assumed to be the typical “I hate my hometown and you all suck” track. Except, it’s much more thoughtful than an angst-filled song condemning the small-minded individuals we all know too well. Banks starts off, “He’s bound for glory/She found her winning man/So she stood by him/Through it all/And then she stood by him/She was pounding on the wall/It feels like the whole world/Is up on my shoulders/Feels like the whole world coming down/On me.”

Interpol took a leap of faith with El Pintor, potentially leaving loyal fans disappointed by the risks taken on this album.

The band’s previous sound puts more emphasis on guitar and bass to create a heavier rock sound—think Fall Out Boy and Green Day, but with a sophisticated twist. Turn On the Bright Lights (2002),  Antics (2004), Our Love To Admire (2007), and Interpol (2010) all have the same feel, genre wise; they’re rock albums with little experimentation beyond tweaking how the standard guitar, bass, and drum combination is manipulated. While El Pintor doesn’t sound like an expected product of Interpol’s, there’s still a quality to the music that’s identifiable as the band’s own. Mass amounts of bands have attempted—and failed—to comeback from a significant hiatus with a new sound, so it’s refreshing to hear Interpol willing to take risks while still channeling a sound fans will easily recognize.

However, no album is perfect, and El Pintor is no exception. Despite Banks’ powerful vocals,  he occasionally sings with an airy head voice, leaving listeners’ comprehension muddled. Though the vocal sound is likely done for aesthetic purposes, identifying when to redo a segment for the purpose of clarity could only serve to benefit Interpol on future records.

Each song on El Pintor has a unique characteristic or twist to it, whether it be the beat, the lyrics, or the use of a whammy bar. Rhythmically, the album is catchy and showcases sounds popular among today’s indie-rock bands, without losing Interpol’s personal touch. Though El Pintor isn’t exactly what fans might be expecting, the lyricism of the album is as thoughtful and catchy as it has been for the past 17 years.

Making a comeback is undoubtedly hard, especially after losing an integral band member of 13 years.

Difficulty only increases when deciding to incorporate new sounds into an album that dedicated fans could hate and dismiss. Despite its obstacles, Interpol takes risks with El Pintor, and while it might not be exactly what fans have built up, it’s packed with thoughtfully produced music sure to grow on anyone that gives it a chance.

Interpol – El Pintor tracklist:

  1. “All The Rage Back Home”
  2. “My Desire”
  3. “Anywhere”
  4. “Same Town, New Story”
  5. “My Blue Supreme”
  6. “Everything is Wrong”
  7. “Breaker 1”
  8. “Ancient Ways”
  9. “Tidal Wave”
  10. “Twice As Hard”