INTERPOL - EL PINTOR (MATADOR)

Giving up smoking is hard. Fighting against every instinct you have isn't the most pleasing way to spend your time, and you simultaneously crave relief while mentally punching yourself in the face for being so damn stupid to let it get this far. Once you get over the worst of it, you get cocky, too. You’re eight months removed from your last one , out for a couple of drinks and you suddenly find yourself saying yes rather than no. From there you move on to mostly yeses until your grabby fingers need their own pack to cradle. Congratulations, you’re back at the start. Now you’re back there, you may as well make the most of it. You don’t have the energy to go through the whole process again—not now, at least. While you wait for that energy to return, you greedily absorb grey, cancerous tendrils at every turn.

The irony of that thought is not lost on you, yet the apathy drowns it out. You’re home.

And you'll never have to work too hard once you give in. It's always within reach, immediately gratifying and never anything less than enjoyable. And so it is with Interpol. Through the ashy aftertaste of Our Love to Admire, the hacking and coughing of Interpol and the realisation that you don't miss them nearly as much as you envisioned when you began to divorce yourself from their company, you're back scratching at their door. El Pintor smothers you with comfort, stimulating memory across its duration. It's the younger version of yourself that you see in the mirror, through all the barriers and masks erected by age. It's a liar in whom you desperately wish to believe. It never tries to win you over, and instead luxuriates in the knowledge that you'll return of your own volition.

What you do when you return is up to you. If you want to pretend you're listening to the follow-up to Turn on the Bright Lights, knock yourself out. There are enough taut guitar spiderwebs to satisfy that longing, while the propulsion of the rhythm section is sufficient to cover Carlos Dengler's absence. There's even a song title with a number in it. If you were sufficiently devoid of inspiration and independent thought, you might call it a return to form, but all that means is you got what you selfishly desired 10 years ago, and that which Antics steadfastly refused to deliver.

And honestly, there's more here than stretching an old face back in an approximation of youth. There's more here than a feeble return to an ultimately doomed habit, and more here than a page full of strangled allegory. New ideas claw through the murk of the past to leave a very real impression. When the big shoegaze noise rises and Banks opens his mouth to say fuck the ancient ways, you believe him. Here, Interpol seek to pummel rather than coerce, and it suits them. Similarly, 'All the Rage Back Home' has no time for esoterica, and instead quickly hits its peak without resorting to fanfare. Where the self-titled effort wallowed in tension and the empty promise of more, this is all release.

Crucially, everything here feels natural. There's no evidence of retreat, or submitting to public pressure and recreating past success. If it sounds like early Interpol, well, that's what Interpol sound like. Identity isn't something they can elude. Banks' newly-discovered falsetto signifies a refusal to stand still, and the whiff of aggression from Dan Kessler's guitar is a welcome addition to the mix. Yeah, there's enough reverb here to bring Jim Morrison back from the dead and then kill him again, but if you're gnawing at this band's discography for that, I'd suggest you find a new cause. It's not a retread, nor is it a bold vision of the future that will humble our preconceived notion of music's limitation. It's another Interpol album. But it's more than that. It's a really good one, and that's enough.