It was just a couple months ago now that Matador gave Interpol the grand treatment with a specially-priced and very nicely-designed self-titled EP meant to introduce the band to the world. With only a short EP on Chemikal Underground to their names before they were signed, the group immediately caught the interest of several big publications and soon the hype machine was rolling. Similarly to what happened with fellow NYC denizens The Strokes last year, the group is currently riding a pretty high tide of positive reviews and word of mouth for their debut release. Ah yes, and they dress fabulously as well, sporting matching dark suits and formal lines that fit the aesthetic of their music, which harkens back to the gloomy post-punk days of the early 80s.
While I was moderately impressed with the EP, one of the things that simply frustrated me (like many EPs, which is actually sort of their goal) was the short length. It's easy to get a quick taste of a group in 15 minutes, but obviously harder to figure out their complete sound, which Turn On The Bright Lights expands on and spreads its wings nicely. "Untitled" opens the disc in a marvelous way, mixing a building guitar melody with a super-thick rhythm section and stabs from a reverb-drenched guitar that send shivers down your spine while lead singer Paul Banks sings, 'I will surprise you sometime / I'll come around.' "Obstacle 1" follows with another solid blast as offset chiming guitars alternate with driving melodies and the bass adds a creeping backbone. Banks sings full-on in his somewhat cold baritone (which has been compared fairly appropriately to Ian Curtis) and the track definitely rocks.
After the two three-letter EP tracks ("NYC" and "PDA"), the group comes right back with the almost bouncy "Say Hello To The Angels." With the guitars taking a much more prominent place in the mix, the track takes on a slightly less morose feel and recalls early, punchier tracks by The Cure or Echo And The Bunnymen. Although the group keeps things fairly interested for the first half of the disc, "Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down" pulls out the stops with a slightly more lengthy track and it just doesn't engage as much as the shorter tracks on the disc. Although it switches up tempos several times and offsets guitars, it falls the way of "Specialist" (the only track from their self-titled EP that doesn't appear on the full-length) in sounding pretty good, but wandering fairly aimlessly.
They come back strong on the barelling track "Roland," though, and Banks is back spitting his vocals while the guitars and rhythm section rumble behind him. It's one of the better tracks on the disc, and a nice punch after the draggy "Stella." The album closes out with a couple slower tracks (although the dark, squalling guitars on "The New" give the track an eerie edge), and closes out in just under 50 minutes. As a debut full-length, the group is definitely doing some excellent stuff, but like any band that gets swept up by the hype machine, you may be disappointed if you expect too much. Like The Strokes, they're not the second coming, but they do take a bit of retro sounds (from different era's) and update them for the current scene in interesting ways.