“Surprise sometimes will come around,” these are the opening lyrics to Interpol’s “Untitled” off their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights, lyrics that define what the album truly was when it came out fifteen years ago.
The early 2000s were a time when garage bands reigned supreme. With bands like the Strokes, the White Stripes, and the Killers gaining commercial success, and introducing a revival of alternative rock bands who were unafraid to represent themselves with a certain aggression, but pop enough to gain critical success on over the airwaves. While being part of this movement, Interpol set the standard a little differently because they were just as relevant as the bands listed above, but at the same time were able to bring a “coolness” factor to the table that the other bands did not seem to hit. Interpol in the beginning was a low-key band that was never really low-key. Not getting the same airplay as the aforementioned bands, but that was ok because they did not need to be played on the radio to gain a fan base.
Turn on the Bright Lights is an aggressive album with a lot of intricate musicianship that was able to captivate audiences of the early 2000s because it reminded fans of the music scene currently going on around them, but at the same time let them experience for the first time the alternative rock scene of the early to mid 1980s. Interpol can be dark like the Cure and Joy Division, but at the same time the guitar work from Daniel Kessler was able to reimage atmospheric tones like the Edge did with early U2. The album is dark yet beautiful and reflective because of those elements.
[contentblock id=141 img=adsense.png]
The track structure of the album is phenomenal. Side A (for all vinyl collectors) starts off with the dynamic yet dreamy introduction “Untitled,” and goes through a collection of staple songs from Interpol’s 20-year catalog. Songs like “Obstacle 1,” NYC,” and “PDA,” and ends with the same way it started, dramatic and dynamic with “Hands Away.” The second side starts off with “Obstacle 2” a song that grabs your attention from the very start when vocalist Paul Banks tells the listener, “I’m gonna pull you in close, gonna wrap you up tight..,” and that is exactly what he does. Although the second half of the album did not have any single taken off it songs like “Stella was a Diver and She was Always Down” and “Leif Erikson” have become crowd favorites.
Overall, the album as a whole is dark, yet beautiful and reflective, hitting emotional realism that many of us need to appreciate and shine a light upon. Interpol’s career has been an experimental and always true one. It always appeared that they created music for themselves, and never forced their creative flow. Turn on the Bright Lights is an album that the band acknowledges was important for the time it came out, and that is why they have announced a tour to celebrate the anniversary of it, where they will play it in it’s entirety.