Interpol Return With Literary Post-Punk Album ‘Marauder’

Interpol arrived with a slew of other bands riding the heavily post punk-informed indie rock wave that came into full swing in the mid aughts. Other main players — The Strokes, Editors — in spite of making phenomenally memorable, era-defining tunes, had very much the standard lyrical fare, largely personal, overall generic words with more emphasis put on their ring over music than their subject matter. Interpol’s Paul Banks, however, has a literary bent that makes his music stand apart in a major way. He dreams up characters and fashions nearly every song into a fanciful story. The band is back to their usual, still with the musical sensibilities that enamored the world back in the days of their classic 2002 debut, “Turn On the Bright Lights.” The latest record, “Marauder,” shows off a band that has honed their craft for twenty-one years, rocking out to tunes about some wild stories.

The tracks on the latest record largely deal with the complexities of relationships, but unlike the firsthand gushy love songs everywhere, these imagine characters in very nuanced situations. Opener “If You Really Love Nothing” involves a narrator drifting away from a woman because of her neuroses, voicing his criticism with the lines, “If you really love nothing / Everbody’s made up / Everybody’s losing,” suggesting love as a prerequisite for not only well-being but reality itself. “Flight of Fancy” delves into the simple yet universally powerful topic of anguish from unrequited love. “NYSMAW” explores the frustration resulting from an inability to fully penetrate the mind of a partner. “Number 10” envisions an office drama involving an employee and supervisor who share a mutual attraction, but find themselves forced to leave it unspoken, due to the dictates of the workplace. As if all this doom and gloom weren’t enough, “Probably Matters” puts a final nail in the coffin, with an abstruse survey of all the turmoil following a failed relationship.   

Apart from the love songs, the stories get more peculiar. “The Rover” tells the tale of a cult leader, who Banks himself has described as preaching a message of “inclusion, obedience, hedonism, and salvation.” Wilder yet, he has described the following track, “Complications” as imagined to play on a jukebox in the same world that this “Rover” inhabits. You’ve got to hand it to Banks for imagination. “Mountain Child” tells of a nature-dwelling girl, and the man who has fallen in love with her eventually meeting his slow deterioration upon being bitten by a venomous snake. While Banks is, by no means, indecipherable, one can’t help but wish he had a voice that articulated his words in a more strikingly immediate way, as the brilliant inventiveness of his stories often gets overlooked under the sound.

There’s nothing on the record quite as epically catchy as old hits like “Evil,” and there’s no radical musical evolution on display, with the usual angular guitar interplay and Banks’ Ian Curtis drawl getting rather monotonous, save for the first song, which finds him venturing into higher registers over an unusually bouncy, airy arrangement. “The Rover” is one of the catchiest numbers, with sprightly, meandering guitar lines showcasing the song-smithing that makes this band so great. On this record, they steer further from the cold mechanical percussion typical of post-punk fare, employing more freely wonky drumming on tracks such as “Complications.” The guitar interplay is thoroughly enjoyable, with lines that mesh into lush harmonies, with structures that are just off-kilter enough to give them some delicious edge. It’s much like the guitar work on the best music of The Strokes, but with a heightened intricacy and flair.

The musical magic of “Marauder” lies in the subtleties — clever chord progressions, instrumental arrangements, and accents. There’s plenty charm here, with songs that are all carefully crafted, particularly their guitar work. You can consistently hear the passion that went into the writing, and the sound of a seasoned band with an exceptional chemistry. And then, you have Banks’ stories, which are truly something else. After two decades, Interpol is still turning out their signature fare with plenty passion and imagination.

Marauder” is available Aug. 24 on Apple Music.