The French have a term for thinking of the perfect comeback far too late, once you’ve ascended the proverbial staircase away from the argument — literally, l’esprit de l’escalier. With his eponymous sophomore release Banks, Interpol’s baritone leading man Paul Banks rises above past experiences, reaching nirvana in a way that’s both reflective and cathartic.
Through grandiose swells of instrumentation, Banks separates drastically from the subtlety of Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper, more of an awakening than an album. Opener “The Base” shifts form the angular simplicity of Interpol’s guitar lines, introducing violins and looped key work. Hypnotic, otherworldly moods settle quickly into the album with “Over My Shoulder”, a tense, conversational attempt to reason with past phantoms and lingering demons.
Along with themes of pointed regret, the album catches glimpses of sunlight — although the light may be waning. Particularly with tracks including “Young Again” and “Arise Awake”, Banks’ distinctive vocals echo an inevitable nostalgia for the naive follies of youth. The gorgeous standout track “Lisbon” builds into a lush instrumental cacophany, with tense drumming and a triangle tickling in the distance elsewhere.
The latter half of the album sinks slightly, particularly with the resounding frustration of the jarring monologue in “Another Chance” — an unusual speak-sing rant interspersed with instrumental breaks. However, Banks ends on a hopeful note with “Summertime Is Coming”, urging the listener to brush off the droplets of gloom from the seasons of sullenness.
Succinct in name but far from simple, Banks succeeds in channeling the intensity of one man’s regrets, ultimately looking outward and searching — maybe onto a gray, gloomy harbor from the perspective of a gutted building as the album’s art depicts. Yet searching, nonetheless.
Essential Tracks: “Lisbon”, “Summertime Is Coming”