Interpol doesn't have a lot to prove at this juncture in their career. Down to three members, the NYC post-punk rockers have delivered on the promise of their debut, Turn On the Bright Lights (which they recently celebrated with a 15-year anniversary tour) with a solid catalogue of successful records. It's no surprise then that Interpol put out the record they did. Marauder is confident in its Interpol-ness, not trading in any of what made the band such a popular cult phenomenon, but it is altogether a fairly risk-averse album.
"If You Really Love Nothing" makes a statement about the content of this record right from the beginning. There is no grand opening, no slow build up into a deafening crescendo. Instead, the opening track features airy, distant vocals over a guitar riff that plays throughout the entirety of the song. There is a chorus, but in energy and tone, it differs little from the rest of the song. While not a bad track, the whole thing plays like a buildup that never truly pays off. Unless, of course, that payoff is "The Rover." Simplistic, plodding single notes on guitar create a catchy riff that pulls the song forward with purpose, and, thanks to a grittier sounding rhythm guitar, a touch of aggression. "The Rover" plays like a more intentional version of the first song that actually bothered to put in a chorus worth caring about. Interpol does well for themselves when they let Paul Banks' dark vocals play against the more driven, forward moving instrumentals of guitarist Daniel Kessler and drummer Sam Fogarino.
"Complications" slows it back down with a guitar-focused intro, Kessler strumming a relaxed part not dissimilar to the opening to Pixies' "Mr. Grieves". Accompanied by a similarly cool, bouncy bassline, the song has an almost beachy rhythm that becomes more distorted and off putting by the end due to an increasingly menacing lead guitar part. Continuing the downbeat trend, "Flight of Fancy"s verses feels almost stream of consciousness, Banks' clever wordplay droning over a similarly troubled sounding guitar riff. For once, the vocals dare to outshine the lead guitar, though as the Banks' dismayed voice trails off, we are treated to another masterful one string solo by Kessler.
In a different way than the "Rover", "Stay in Touch" is also a standout on the album's first half. Introduced with a harsh, twanging guitar, "Stay in Touch" plays like the soundtrack to pent up frustration. Vocals crescendo and abruptly cut out periodically before actually becoming softer in what can best be described as an anti-chorus. Banks' laments how "Marauder breaks bonds" and "plays with the real face on", selling the importance of the album's name, a damning title of someone who does not respect relationships and ends up creating discord. The second long instrumental fadeout in a row though, robs the song of some of its impact. Following the first interlude is "Mountain Child," characterized by staccato guitar and low-spirited singing early on. "Mountain Child" rises to a more fevered-pitch on all fronts but never comes down back down to the lows of its intro, making the whole thing seem somewhat disjointed. "NYSMAW" has an instrumental drive that sounds more positive, contrasting with negative, downcast lyrics about "aimless sharks" who "don't react to soft attentions." and "grinding fists in my soul."
At this mile marker in the record, I am starting to feel some fatigue. Every song ends in a similar way, with a ghosty collage of instruments and a repeated sung line that fades into the background, and, minus the "Rover," there isn't much energy to maintain interest. So despite the biting chorus of "Surveillance" claiming "Shit is made up, somebody paid for it," its adherence to the Interpol formula holds it back from standing out, and adds to the feeling that the whole album is one long, indistinguishable song. "Number 10" dares finally to break the meandering pace. After an ambient, repeating riff, the song launches into an exciting, dismayed energy. The lead guitar jumps into the chorus like a slightly off-kilter surf-rock jam, highlighting Banks' confrontational tone.
Sustaining the momentum is "Party's Over," which allows Fogarino to finally shine with his drumming, playing a complicated part that gives the song its character. It makes you wish that they had allowed him to let loose a little more to add some flair to the less interesting songs. Another interlude leads finally into "It Probably Matters," predictably bringing things to a slower pace to close out the album with notes of regret and longing. What we are left with is, without question, another solid Interpol album, retaining their style and ability to make defeatism something you can sing along to. But excessive use of fade outs, simplistic guitar-work and other recurring elements make the songs blend together, and although a lot of the songs are good on their own, listening to the album as a whole can start to make the music seem more like background noise.