Being a little bit older and a little bit wiser can be a two way street when it comes to making music. Some musicians seem to lose the spark and idealism they once held on earlier records they released in their younger days, starting to sound laboured and fake. On the other hand some hone their skill, accept the inevitability of age and try to tailor their sound and outlook to match. With El Pintor Paul Banks et al have somehow found a way to keep the spark and bridge the gap from old to new.
All Back Home gives the listener the first taste of what the record offers and it doesn’t disappoint. With its haunting tone and distant vocals set against a classic Interpol tailored guitar riff, it then flies into an up-tempo hornets nest of energy. The doom and gloom stays in the lyrics, but maybe an offer of reprisal as Banks sings ‘I keep falling, maybe half the time’ showing the melancholy maybe ebbing slightly in this album.
But for all you out there worried Paul is going to turn into a ray of sunshine, there’s no need to worry; Same Town, New Story is a ballad about the world weighing heavy on his shoulders, whereas Breaker 1 is a beautifully composed and clever track managing to capture the feeling of isolation with a vivid frustration and sadness. With distorted guitars reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr, the track is awash with ideas and imagery that will have you listening again and again.
Being minus a bass player, Banks has taken over the duties on El Pintor. Although some may have been worried he couldn’t keep the ‘style but steady’ atmosphere that was created by former band member Carlos D, there is no need to threat. It might be a little different, and hardcore fans will notice, but it just feels like an evolution rather than something missing. Track Anywhere is a perfect example of this, sounding more like classic Interpol but with a twist, and perhaps about moving on with life, with lyrics such as ‘at least I had my taste of the nightlife…I could go anywhere’. With a solo riff leading into a drums and bass and a little of Paul’s fondness for hip-hop thrown in for good measure, it’s one of the standout tracks of the record.
Twice as Hard is a change of direction which sees the band entering slow tempo territory, managing to incorporate jazzy drums, heavily effected guitar and intermittent bass and making it sound interesting and different, whereas Tidal Wave is awash with a variety of ideas and a chorus that disappears as soon as it arrives, making it have much in common with the songs title.
El Pintor is a triumph for a band who some may have been worried were running out of ideas. The loss of a member has done wonders for the group, forcing them not to rethink, but rekindle their love of working together. If you were to compare the music to a football match, they’ve changed formation to suit a new style of play, and at the same time managed to keep the same philosophy that has always made them great.