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Interpol: Interpol (Matador) 

For a band that's brought a post-punk cognitive dissonance to DVD-piracy warnings and terrorism watch lists the world over, Interpol sure isn't surprising anyone these days.

By their fourth record, we've learned everything there is to learn about the band. They're purveyors of a bass line that hops through songs like the bouncing ball over sing-along subtitles, but perhaps with more seismic veering to it. They deal in reverb-y guitars pulled across their sonic palette like dollar-store Halloween spiderwebbing: a bit spooky, a bit synthetic, but dourly playful. Of course, it all rests on the persona of Paul Banks, to some an ersatz Michael Stipe, to others a dreamscape tour guide comprising equal parts music-mag centerfold and Byronesque man-of-feeling.

I credit Interpol with introducing a certain kind of romance back into the zeitgeist. In 2002, their debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, strutted with brooding sexiness when albums by the White Stripes (filthy), Beck (mopey) and Wilco (snappy) reigned supreme. Interpol was essential listening, because it was distinctive.

It's unclear what the band intends by this newest album's eponymous title. Is it an indication that they're just not trying anymore, or it is meant as a back-to-basics refocusing?

Interpol could be received as either creatively lazy or intensely committed to the band's original mission statement, and it's a misstep for the band to defer to their audience's capriciousness to define their project. At a moment when Interpol should be boldly reframing their relevance, they're stuck walking in circles.

More by Sean Bottai

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