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Interpol "Turn on the Bright Lights" - 21st Anniversary Review

10/10

Interpol "Turn on the Bright Lights" - 21st Anniversary Review

In the sprawling world of indie and alternative music, there exists a select group of records that sit atop all of the others, in a category all of their own. There you will find Is This It, by The Strokes, Belle & Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, by Neutral Milk Hotel, Doolittle, by Pixies and of course Interpol's debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights

As we approach the record's 21st birthday, it is only fitting to delve into the profound impact it has had and the lasting legacy it continues to carve. Upon release in 2002, the album quickly established itself as an enduring beacon of post-punk revival, alongside The Strokes debut, at a time when the alternative music world was reinventing itself following the demise of Britpop. Interpol injected melancholic lyrics wrapped in a Nirvana-esque somber aura into the music realm, building upon some of the darker elements of lyrical writing alongside reverb-laced guitar playing and room-filling studio accouterments.


Untitled, the album's hypnotic opener, harnesses a pervasive sense of introspection and urban mystique, woven into Paul Bank’s lyric alongside Daniel Kessler’s emotional, whaling guitar. The pulsating rhythm and ethereal atmosphere of PDA captures a sharp balance between vulnerability and bravado, finding itself as the first truly upbeat song on the record. Sitting below the percussive guitar line, the bass fills the harmonies perfectly, and at the perfect volume. Too often rock musicians of the time pushed to turn up the bass too high, in an effort to duel with the guitar, perhaps trying to mimic the Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke back and forth of The Queen is Dead. While there's nothing wrong with heavy bass playing, filling in harmonies and occasionally taking the reins, restraint is key, and Interpol tows that line superbly.

We decided to highlight what we believe to be the finest deep cut on the record Stella was a diver and she was always down on our recently released list, 2000’s Alternative & indie Rock Deep Cuts. The longest track on the album, at about six and a half minutes, Stella embodies exactly what musicians should reference when diving into layering. Balletic and delicate guitar lines sit perfectly atop one another during its multiple guitar breaks. Doubling the pattern of the snare drum with a guitar chord below the lead guitar line comes off to the listener as slick, elegant and sharp as a tack.


Turn on the Bright Lights legacy on the indie and alternative music landscape is nothing short of seismic. Injecting a much-needed dose of darkness and sophistication into a music scene hungry for authenticity, this record arrived at a pivotal time when indie rock was begging to develop a sound of its own, noticeably separate from the jangle-pop and alternative rock of the 90’s. It masterfully bridged the gap between the past and the present, drawing inspiration from post-punk giants like Joy Division and The Chameleons while forging an innovative path alongside help from The Strokes and The Libertines for subsequent bands like Arctic Monkeys, Editors and Franz Ferdinand. Its release was a part of a renaissance of sorts, a resurgence of interest in the Ian Curtis style, hauntingly poetic aesthetics of post-punk and a revitalization of the genre's unique essence.

Revered by both critics and audiences alike, its significance is frequently noted throughout retrospective praise. In 2013, NME called the record the 8th greatest album of the decade and Pitchfork called it the 3rd best album released between 2000 and 2004. Earlier this year, we called it the 7th best indie rock album of all time and the 21st greatest alternative album of all time.


As we stand two decades now from the timeless album's release, Turn on the Bright Lights continues to impress and influence. Its atmospheric production and emotional depth remain as spectacular as ever, effortlessly transporting listeners to a reverb-laced world where shadows and secrets intertwine. The record’s ability to evoke a myriad of emotions paired with its ability to serve as a sonic conduit to the complexities of the human experience solidify its status as a cornerstone of not only indie and alternative music history, but to the history of rock and roll.

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