Kiefer’s Music Mondays: Interpol’s ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’

Interpol’s debut is equal parts visceral euphoria and perspicacious workout.

Just as the ball was was dropping on the new millennium, and we were grabbing our helmets and running for the bunkers of Y2K hysteria, we didn’t realize the rock and roll revival that would soon revitalize New York City’s music scene.

With The Strokes dominating the first year, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs championing the misfits, four ambitious men wearing perfectly tailored suits gathered on stage, instruments in hand, to join the charge and Turn On The Bright Lights.

A summation of Carlos D’s addictive entrancing basslines, Daniel Kessler’s imaginative guitar licks, Sam Fogarino’s thought-provoking percussion and Paul Bank’s uncanny singing and songwriting, Interpol’s debut album is equal parts visceral euphoria and perspicacious workout bordering on meditative transcendence.

Even their look—monochromatic three-piece suits with sunglasses—is such a simple yet sophisticated look for an early 2000s rock band. Recorded in the wake of the 9/11, this group from New York City seemed to counterintuitively hallmark the era with a sense of melodrama antithetically characterized by such an unhistrionic approach. There’s an overall feeling of melancholia, backed by vivacious tempos and melodies.

The way Banks weaves words in abstract euphemisms throughout the album, punctuated by blatant statements of cynical sincerity, has this same conflicting theme with a tendency to exude sexual connotations. It’s utterly fascinating.

One might question of the sociopathic nature of Interpol’s music, were it not for this (once again) contradictory status of cool, calm, collected emotionalism that just smooths over the strange perversity of the lyrical content.

Turn On The Bright Lights has become such an integral part of post-millennium music, inspiring and guiding a slew of successful artists in its brilliant dichotomies. I would not say that Interpol or this album are necessarily a product of their times, but rather the times are a product of them. For that understated majesty, this will forever be one of my favorite albums of all time.

Listen to: “Obstacle 1,” “Leif Erikson,” “PDA,” “Specialist”