Whilst their debut LP, Turn on the Bright Lights was released in 2002, Interpol predates the twenty-first century and are actually over two decades old. Whilst two original members have gone onto pastures new, in many respects, from still looking dapper in black suits and staying true to their debut post-punk roots; Interpol has seldom changed and remains instantly recognisable in all ways. The immediate, instant identification of Interpol begins musically with the opening track ‘Fine Mess’ along with the following opening lyrics: “I’d like to tour the 80’s. But I got sideswiped and came right to ’78.”
As identified, Interpol are a post-punk band; time travel back to the periods noted makes perfect sense. As well as the desire to time travel, the need, desire, joy and compulsion to have a retrospective on all aspects of one’s life (not just the joyous and glorious moments) is all too apparent as Paul Banks sings “So I make time to rewind those memories and play cause you and me make a fine mess”. Fine Mess also has some less comfortable lyrics open to a plethora of interpretations such as “You get high like you chase the natives. And you tried then to show them your come-and-see face. I like this elevation. The mood’s right, the dim light, we can see them”.
No Big Deal follows, moderately slower in tempo, but, the infectious hypnotic guitars penetrate instantly. The lyrics about “the beach” and “strip clubs” penetrate too as do the subtle strings later on in the track. Real Life then sees Interpol continue to stay true to their early post-punk offerings. The Weekend continues with this nostalgic glory whilst also offering insightful lyrics “Stop reaching in, I’ll meet you there. Stop reaching in, I see you, friend. All in good time we’ll speak. Yeah, stop reaching in.” This can be interpreted as a really neat and practical way of saying “I can’t talk to you right now but I will get back to you”.
Far from continuing to be practical, The Weekend transcends with more fantastical elements with many references to “magic”. A Fine Mess concludes with track five, Thrones. It doesn’t feel like a playout track but nonetheless conceived with rawness, passion and post-punk authenticity.
The songwriting process adopted by Interpol is a fascinating one. Paul Banks (vocals/rhythm guitar) has said: “I don’t feel all that compelled to express those parts of my personality that are balanced and content”. This definitely came across each of the five tracks of A Fine Mess. Furthermore, before the band released their sixth LP, Marauder in 2018, they spent 2017 touring their fifteenth anniversary of their debut LP, Bright Lights, before immediately recording Marauder. The anniversary tour has evidently given Interpol a sense of nostalgia which found its way onto A Fine Mess.
A Fine Mess is a celebration of the tracks which did not initially find a home on Marauder. With Banks describing Marauder as his “unmitigated id”, A Fine Mess is definitely a curious and thought-provoking extension of it.
A Fine Mess offers further revelations behind the dark suits of the Manhattan, New York three-piece. The artwork alone (recovered from an abandoned police station in Detroit) demands extensive scrutinising as does the lyrics equalling the innovation of tracks such as NYC from their debut 2002 effort.