Interpol’s music inspires better tailoring. I say that not to mock or chide; I’m simply acknowledging the connection between the band’s music and dress code. Bassist Carlos Dengler’s immaculate three-piece suits, his leather shoes, his slick ties, that new moustache that makes him look like some Savile Row haberdasher — it only makes sense amid the fine lines and rigid contours of his band’s own music. Behind Paul Banks’s chiseled monotone, Daniel Kessler’s sharp guitar, and those synths bleating around Sam Fogarino’s snare is a crumbling Gotham full of Armani suits toasting the city’s demise till dawn.
The quartet succeeds when it consistently evokes this gothic drama, when they draw the line from look to hook. On 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights, the members of Interpol were post-punk’s most dashing troubadours, their ominous, seething pop perfectly updating Joy Division for anyone born since Ian Curtis’s death. Antics (2004) was a poppier affair, and something of a disappointment; they sound like juveniles when they’re having too much fun. When Banks gets excited his body seems to shrink in his suit — his hands disappear behind his cuffs, his pant legs drag on the concrete.
With Our Love to Admire, the foursome has managed to find a cozy middle between Bright Lights’ gloomy ambiance and Antics’ tuneful insouciance. “Mammoth” and “Pace Is the Trick” are the best of the bunch. Banks starts the former in near falsetto, purring “spare me the suspense” before screaming “enough with the fucking incense!” over pounding downbeat guitars. Interpol alternates effortlessly here between glam-punk and post-punk, between revelry and misery. Never do you doubt for a second that these boys are wearing Italian.
But the pleasures are fewer than on the debut, in part because Banks insists on running things from the front of the mix. Winking while you drop cliches into your songs may work for Thom Yorke, but not for Banks. He’s not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. “This is a bandit’s life. It comes and goes, and them’s the breaks” isn’t cute; it’s just silly — particularly paired with Banks’s assertive, metallic tenor. Carlos D.’s precocious bass, along with the rhythm section in general, is more subdued here, cowed by Banks’s voice and Kessler’s guitar.
The keyword, though, is “familiar.” Interpol’s third LP sounds more or less like the last two, and that’s its biggest problem. Our Love has character, sure, but compared to its minimal shifts in tone and temper, Carlos D.’s new facial hair seems seismic. Interpol still has the best tailors in town and the tunes to match. But the time may have come for a make-over — on both counts.