Trend-setting veteran rockers, Interpol release their seventh album, The Other Side of Make Believe. The album follows their 2018 release, Marauder. The latest release changes up their often-dark musings for pastoral longings and newfound grace while still exploring the sinister undercurrents of our time. The band combines their unique sound with new tones and discoveries, producing an amalgam of hope, realism and introspection.
As the world was shutting down due to the pandemic, Interpol was winding up their tour schedule. As lockdowns descended, the band members would end up physically distant from each other; vocalist Paul Banks landed in Edinburgh, guitarist Daniel Kessler in Spain and drummer Sam Fogarino in Athens, Georgia. To pass the time, they decided to work on a new release. They were forced to do things differently when writing and recording, disconnected from their usual approach of jamming out the songs together in a studio. Instead, these songs first came into existence in isolation. The band recorded the album together in the NY Catskills when the lockdowns were lifted. Production duties were shared by Flood and the band's previous collaborator Alan Moulder, who had produced El Pintor in 2014 and the band's eponymous 2010 release.
The Other Side of Make-Believe counterbalances darkness with hope. It illustrates the fear of the unknown personified by the pandemic and the human ability to be resilient. For the first time in their discography, the band suggests that things might not be as bad as they had once feared. The lead song, "Toni", lauds the idea of going in the right direction and humankind winning the fight. Sonically the track is immediately identifiable as Interpol with a fantastic build in the opener. "Toni" is a cool combo of the ethereal with the forthright. The best lyrics of the track typify the release, "Still in shape, my methods refined", and suggest dusting oneself off, taking an inventory of the now. "Fables" doubles down on the theme. Here is a search for truth and stability in all the madness - the quintessential aim of any fable - and the search to get beyond the make-believe façade of the world. The sonics are expansive and anthemic as the band delivers a toe-tapper.
"Into the Night" spins out a hypnotic offering blending strong guitar riffs with brilliant drum work, creating a spiral of noise. Banks' ghostly vocal examines fear and uncertainty. "Mr Credit" is a stomping rocker and somewhat surprising for an Interpol track. This sneaky song gets into your head and does not depart. An apt tune thematically, it examines the bottom dropping out of the world economy, underlined by the lyric, "I want to be there when you cut the wire." "Something Changed" utilises a stripped piano base married to free jazz and discordant elements to produce yet another winning track.
The selection describes a nightmare dream delivering the hallucinogenic feel of lockdown. It lauds the hope and resilience needed to get through the horrors. "Renegade Hearts" is Interpol channelling Beck, delivering a punchy bouncy selection. "Passenger" displays why Kessler is a woefully underestimated guitarist. He draws the listener into the track with his accessible cyclical chord progressions. This song soars with Bank's voice, artfully stating his found truths with lyrics like "I would never cheat, but I might take advancements," and "Nothing is so sacred I don't want to chase it".
The uber Interpol track "Gran Hotel" serves up a healthy dose of that cosmopolitan feeling the band is so famous for while cleverly undermining their worldliness by hankering for the simple things. Banks' yearning is palpable as he states, "I'll do anything to know you here again". He finds the distractions of the world writ large can not compensate for the rewards of personal interaction. "Big Shot City" provides what Interpol does best, combining anthemic guitars with outstanding arresting percussion. There is build and build until the listener is begging for mercy. Banks wonders how we got where we are, calling out our leaders and their entitlement, desiring a removal from power all those who fail us. "Big Shot City" explodes in the final quarter of the song with incendiary guitar and drums making it the stand-out track of the album.
The closer "Go Easy (Palermo)" advises the listener to take it slowly and question everything we are being told by the media. The lyrics extol logic over immediate emotion, which always arrives before sensibility. The proprietary chiming guitars provide a great sign-off to the record.
Interpol's The Other Side of Make Believe is an impressive and welcome return for the band from an involuntary hiatus. Interpol has always delivered a sophisticated knowing, often accomplished using their trademark dark humour. In this outing, they provide that vibe in a more human and less cynical way. Writing in surroundings of uncertainty and despair found the band members wanting to add hope to their mix. Interpol never rests on their laurels as they fully believe there is always an nth or, in this case, seventh time to make a first impression. The offering finds Interpol, in the end, still in great shape with their methods refined and still intact. The Other Side of Make Believe will thrill their fans and win them, new listeners.