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Tuesday, July 24

Vinnie the Intern's Blog #7: My Favorite Album

Everyone has that one album. An album where everything falls right in line with your specific aesthetics of music. Considering next month will mark a decade since its release, I feel it is important to revisit my favorite album. What is my favorite album, you ask?

Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights (2002/Matador)

Turn on the Bright Lights, an album that is a rush of reverb, pulsating octave jumps from bassist, Carlos Dengler, and a strong percussive bed built by drummer Sam Fogarino, tells stories of growing old, lost loves, new loves, and depravity all within the hazy backdrop of New York.

The album commences with "Untitled," a lush piece opening with Daniel Kessler's lonely guitar, later dilating into a full arrangement for singer/guitarist, Paul Banks, to break into the song with the opening lyrics "Surprise, sometimes I'll come around." It sets the tone of the album as it diminishes into "Obstacle 1."  

Arguably their most popular song and rightfully so, "Obstacle 1" displays the band at their most musically intriguing. The song is drenched in the syncopation of Daniel Kessler's and Paul Banks' call-response guitar riffs, peppered with the precision of Sam Fogarino's drumming and Carlos Dengler's playful, elastic bassline woven tightly between the guitars. The album is one of the albums for bass guitar. Surely any bass player cannot help be swayed by the basslines that Carlos Dengler has crafted. 


Once this duel attack of guitars halts, the slower-tempo of "NYC," named after where the Brooklyn band is based, enters with the statement of "the subway is a porno and the pavements are a mess" and the powerful conclusion that "it's up to me now, turn on the bright lights," the name sake of the record. This shows one of the more uplifting moments of the albums, which can, at times, seem downright dreary.

The following track, "PDA," is a song that had been in Interpol's repertoire before the turn of the century and featured much similarity to the uptempo style featured on "Obstacle 1" and the proceeding track "Say Hello to the Angels."  The song's true shining moment is the breathtaking back-half which is predominantly a beautifully crafted instrumental. "Say Hello to the Angels" is as smooth as Banks pick up line, "1,2,3. Do me." One of the more rhythmic cuts on the album, it does not stay in one place for long and continues to shift until it is cut off by a chord tinged in feedback.



"Hands Away" greatly slows down the album from the dance-punk a la Interpol that is"Say Hello to the Angels" and sets you up for "the rest of Turn on the Bright Lights which becomes increasingly less formulaic and much more adventurous, extended songs; shying away from verse, chorus, verse song structure. "Hands Away," one of the more sparse tracks on the album, is chilling. Atmospheric and filled with remorse and ponder in the voice of Banks asks he simply questions "what happened?" 


My favorite song on the album, possibly ever, "Obstacle 2," an ode to waiting for love, toasting to the snow and making sure to not waste wine. The chorus "I will stand by all this drinking if it helps me through these days..." is hauntingly backed by the lyrics "Take my love in real small doses."
Emotional center piece, "Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down" revolves around the tale of Stella, a woman who has truly "broken away" from her normal life. The climax of Paul Bank's declarative statement "Stella! I love you!" (See Marlon Brando in 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire). 

"Roland" was also an earlier song and punkier by nature featured the incredible run-ons of "my best friend's a butcher, he has sixteen knives. He carries them all over the town, at least he tries. Oh, look it stopped snowing." What? I'm not sure what that means either, but Mr. Banks often ambiguous lyrics make it that much rewarding to decipher, making the album's replay value incredibly high. 

"The New" features an elegant bass line juxtaposed with the droning guitars of Kessler and Banks. One of the more straightforward songs on the album "I can't pretend, I need to defend some part of me from you, I know I've spent some time lying" acts as an honest declaration of love as well as repression. This song can be seen as an inner-monologue of the protagonist's past as well as present while analyzing the new life ahead with his love interest. The lyrics "You're looking alright tonight, I think we should go..." bridge the gap and bring the listener from "The New" to the closer of Turn on the Bright Lights.


The closer, "Leif Erikson" becomes the response to of the protagonist's thoughts in "The New." His love interest "feels that my sentimental side should be held with kids gloves" showing the stark emotional capacities between the two lovers. The ending of the album ends on the captivating line "she says brief things, her love's a pony, my love's subliminal."

So there it is. My favorite album. I hope, if anything, this has inspired you to check it out if you have not already or made you want to revisit the album. Turn on the Bright Lights was the album that changed my life. Keep in mind, some of these comments on songs were just my interpretations so they should not affect any way that you digest this amazing album.

So...go ahead! Listen to it! Right now!

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