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An Introduction To Interpol In 10 Songs
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An Introduction To Interpol In 10 Songs

Picture of Joshua Rau
Updated: 13 January 2017
Indie from the 2000s has become one of the most pigeonholed genres in recent memory. However, for every Franz Ferdinand or Arctic Monkeys, there was another side to the coin — specifically, a darker, fiercer half that was unafraid of breaking as many conventions as possible. The band that brought along these ethics the furthest and perhaps most successfully was Interpol. While they championed the same songwriting techniques as The Strokes, Interpol stands out thanks to their uncanny ability to contort these same aesthetics into a much darker form. Nonetheless, their songs are sure to get stuck in your head, so here are 10 standouts to welcome you to Interpol’s twisted, beautiful world.

Obstacle 1 (2002)

Interpol’s music often sounds like Joy Division, and this song is probably where they come the closest. However, where Joy Division stuck unwaveringly to direct 4/4 rhythms, ‘Obstacle 1’ bumps way harder with the drums’ varied, frenetic pulse. The raw instrumentation and hollowed-out vocals proved right from the get-go that Interpol was not and would never be a laughing matter.

Rest My Chemistry (2007)

Echoing strings rattle around inside your ears until this song finally bursts into an ingenious hook that features both a shrill guitar jangle and infectious bass groove. The song always hangs on the edge, never quite blowing up into anything beyond its delightful hook, and instead turns gloomier and gloomier.

Evil (2004)

Probably the most recognizable of the bunch, ‘Evil’ is about as close Interpol gets to ‘pop.’ The distorted crunch of the chorus keep the listener on his or her toes, yet at the same time, everything stays right on course because of it. If there was ever a perfect song for a cold, rainy day at the beach, this would be it.

Always Malaise (The Man I Am) (2010)

On a record that unfortunately blends together, ‘Always Malaise’ is a breathe of fresh air in the middle of the tracklist. Paul Banks’ voice dives headlong into swaths of harmonies as all different levels of his voice dance from left to right in a disorienting fashion. By the end, the song has melted into a haunting background lull.

Hands Away (2002)

It’s amazing how this band can turn even the darkest melodies into danceable tracks. The most intriguing part, however, is how the snare never actually enters the drumbeat. The entire song is carried by the simplest two-note guitar melody, a bass drum, and a ride. Only the best of the best can pull off this kind of daring songwriting.

Length of Love (2004)

This song is almost like Interpol’s own sinister ode to the sweet, heartfelt sounds of 1970s soul. The galloping midsection forces the song to make a complete 180, turning it into a wicked seduction of angular guitar work that could turn even a waiting room into a dark and brooding dance party.

The Lighthouse (2007)

One of the least rhythmically-reliant tracks in their catalog, ‘The Lighthouse’ succeeds in its stark, sparse utilization of musical elements. The guitar, overdriven and strummed at lightning speeds, ends up making the song’s title literal. Paul Banks’ voice turns into a beacon of light in the swelling darkness of the guitars as they layer on top of each other more and more until the harmonious waves of sound seem as if they are crashing down in every possible direction — and suddenly, the full band kicks in alongside a bell-accompanied drone that would fit in nicely in a funeral march.

My Desire (2014)

Despite losing key member Carlos Dengler, ‘My Desire’ is a much-appreciated reminder that Interpol can still write material like nothing has changed. If this were any other band, the music would be the perfect template for a crushing love song, but because it’s Interpol, it never ventures into such positive territory (which is what makes it so great).

NARC (2004)

‘NARC’ is this band’s pop songwriting apex, because let’s be real — how often are there guitar upstrokes in pop songs? Hardly ever. Instead of pigeonholing the sound, the two-tone ska undertones actually lift the song into groundbreaking, unique territory. The pre-chorus is undoubtedly where it all comes together, though, and that alone is worth a listen.

Pioneer to the Falls (2007)

There’s been plenty of evidence so far that Interpol is pretty dark, but ‘Pioneer to the Falls’ takes the cake. Kicking off the critically adored record Our Love to Admire, the song immediately drops into one of the creepiest hooks the band has written to this day, and it doesn’t help that the synth and piano double down on constant minor key drops. In the pop music world, the first track is usually pretty radio friendly material, but Interpol brilliantly went ahead and placed a lengthy, devilish slow-burner up front to start things off their way.