Decade :: Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

Following 9/11, the world seemed a bit colder. If there were an historical event that defined the 00s for the United States, it was certainly that one, and the disillusioned wake of its terror certainly felt chilly and uncertain. Maybe that's why the renewed interest in Joy Division and the late Ian Curtis sprang up in recent years - a music perfect for soundtracking the removed time in which we lived. Perhaps, also, that's why Interpol struck such a chord with people in 2002. The band's icy distillation of post-punk was, admittedly, a reminder of their Mancunian forebearers, but done in a way that seemed inherently of its own time and place.

Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol's first and best record, is the type of debut album that can make and break a band simultaneously. Certainly Interpol has had a rough time critically living up to its near-perfect tone in the ensuing years. But as I sat down to revisit this album for, honestly, the first time in close to five years, it felt like opening an icy tomb, the wintry breath of 2002 sweeping across my ears. I shivered and remembered the first time I heard the untitled first song's delicate, hypnotic opening moments and its lyrics perfectly hanging the era in the painful light of truth - "Surprise, sometimes, will come around." Like an elegy to a moment where facade falls away, it was a bracing piece of art rock unlike anything else around it at the time.

Though its lyrics seem trained inward, rather than outward, "NYC"'s breathtaking bridge is the album's purest moment. When the drums momentarily drop out, the thrumming guitars laying down a foundation for what's to come, Paul Banks delivers the album's titular line. Evoking images of Tribute in Light, "turn on the bright lights" seems like more than just another casual line of self-reflection. This is the inside identifying itself with the outside and finding its most honest self in the world around it, like an urban Romantic finding expression in the concrete world.

The album is a daunting listen - there is no resolution, no happiness, no joyous chorus or riff to be found. It is a dark, frigid exploration of a modern person, unsure even of the right words for themselves and the people around them, but finding in the larger world's chaotic expanse a note with which to harmonize and define. words/ j neas

MP3: Interpol :: Untitled
MP3: Interpol :: NYC

+ After the jump: Interpol's Black Session: Maison de la Radio, Aug 27th 2002

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