Interpol’s debut album Turn on the Bright Lights is likely my most listened to album of all time. Not just because it’s a masterpiece, but because this album fits so many moods perfectly and has never gotten old. This is THE ultimate night driving album, no question. Somewhere between the angelic guitars, imaginative lyrics, driving drums and infectious bass is a feeling created that I can’t express. I can anticipate every note on this album but I am never afraid to replay it ever since I first listened to it in high school. I even remember bonding with my brother over this album, when he brought a ton of music back from college to share with me. Their sound is smooth and moving Post-Punk, it’s that feeling of staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night.
Untitled is a lyrically sparse intro track, but it could be the best song on the album. It builds up and breaks down so effectively and singer Paul Banks’ is so emotive with the simple line “I’ll come around, when you’re down”. There are so many lines that have stuck with my over the years, and Obstacle 1 has plenty, like “she can read, she can read, she’s bad”. For the longest time Obstacle 1 was my favorite song on the whole album, it’s just amazing from start to finish, but lately the more subtle tracks have taken that title away. NYC is a brooding and lonely piece but contributes a lot to how well this album translates to driving at night. It somehow evokes that feeling of cruising in the city, just observing the environment around you. The chorus has the sarcastic line “New York cares” in response to the narrators feelings of loneliness and disgust of his surroundings. In that way the song is about how the narrator changes his perception on things, New York (or the world) does not care about how you feel, it keeps going on without you. So your only option is to change your life, “turn on the bright lights”, and open your eyes.
Paul Banks uses such descriptive but unique phrases on this album, that can be felt as humorous, silly, or terrible. “subway she is a porno”, “we have two hundred couches where you can sleep tight”, “oh look it stopped snowing”, “friends don’t waste wine when there’s words to sell”. These are just some of the very memorable lines in this album that stick out and stick with you. I have at one time or another felt they were a little eye-rolling, but have since grown to appreciate them all. Bassist Carlos Dengler picks up the pace with PDA, which features one of the best jams on the album before the relatable lines delivered by backup vocalist and guitarist Daniel Kessler:
“Something to say
Something to do
Nothing to say
There’s nothing to do”
Hands Away is the echo of Untitled, another brilliant instrumental-heavy track. Even the mixing reinforces the guitar playing, Banks’ voice is kept to a quiet shadow behind the band’s sound. Obstacle 2 isn’t necessarily the follow up to Obstacle 1, as Banks said in interviews he doesn’t put much thought into the song titles. Saying that though they are both about relationships and it’s sung at the lover in question. I’m struggling not to drag this review out by talking about every song, but I love each one. Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down and Roland have some amusing parts but both are amazing through and through.
The New and Leif Erikson close out the album in glorious fashion, and as consistently incredible the album has been so far, they somehow top the other songs. Leif Erikson in particular is my favorite song on the album right now. The instrumentation is perfect but the lyrics and the feel of the song is what make it top my list. Nearly every verse is quotable as hell, with lines like “but if your life is such a big joke, why should I care”, “all the people that you’ve loved they’re all bound to leave some keepsakes”, “she feels that my sentimental side should be held with kid’s gloves”, and of course the genius outro;
“She says brief things, her love’s a pony
My love’s subliminal”
Unfortunately this album was like lightning in a bottle, and Interpol nor the individual band members’ side projects never reached the heights that Turn on the Bright Lights hit. As you can probably guess by my fawning over this album, I consider it essential listening to everyone. It’s been one of my favorites for the longest time, and like I said earlier I’ve probably listened to this the most. It’s an album that I’ve come to again and again in multiple stages of my life, and I will likely carry it with me all the way.