Familiarity breeds warmth

New York City’s music scene blah, blah, blah. The Strokes blah, blah, blah. Joy Division blah, blah, blah.

Pretty much every review of Interpol’s debut album, Turn on the bright lights, makes some mention about the band’s locale (current “it”-town NYC), which necessitates mentioning the Strokes, which necessitates mentioning Interpol sound more like Joy Division than Television.

Musicwhore.org would not like to indulge in the more lemming tendencies of the mainstream music press — how can so much ink be spilled about Sweden’s hot garage rock scene, then turn and pan every single album made by said bands? — but in this case, it can’t help it.

Interpol really does sound like Joy Division. At the very least, there’s an early ’80s patina to Interpol’s reverb-soaked, deadpan-delivered music.

The bass work calls to mind Peter Hook, the guitars Johnny Marr, and Paul Banks’ singing Ian Curtis.

For anyone who came of age when the States miraculously sprang from the economic depression of the Carter era, Interpol is comfort food for the ears, new music in the guise of Modern English.

Which means, hell if I know how this album sounds to other people. (I like it.)

Such evokation of easily citeable source material may give the impression Interpol is a quartet of hacks, Turn on the bright lights has some decent writing.

There’s something hypnotic in the way the band’s guitarists chug away at those chords. Banks’ monotone voice gives way to a few leaps and jumps that are singable but not entirely predictable.

“Say Hello to Angels” gets downright danceable. The dirge-like “NYC” hints at a sliver of sunlight when Banks intones, “It’s up to me now, turn on the bright lights”.

On “Leif Erickson”, Interpol sounds closer to the Doors, Banks doing an eerie impression of Jim Morrison.

Familiarity may breed distress, but in the case of Turn on the bright lights, it provides warmth.

Maybe the comparrisons with the Strokes isn’t too far off. Julian Casablancas and company don’t do much different from Tom Verlaine and company, and somehow, they’ve managed to inject vitality into a tried-and-true form of music.

Interpol is as familiar as your old vinyl record collection, and it’s not. And that’s all right.