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Sunday, July 15, 2007

OUR LOVE TO ADMIRE

Interpol

In the early years of this decade, when bands such as the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were revitalizing New York's music scene, Interpol was often mentioned as an afterthought. That's because it was easy to confuse the musicians as Brits: Their songs borrowed heavily from Joy Division and their band's name refers to the largely Eurocentric International Criminal Police Organization. Plus, not many downtown bands insisted on wearing tailored suits.

Five years after releasing their debut on the indie label Matador, Interpol has graduated to a major label. But their latest, "Our Love to Admire," doesn't show any huge stylistic leaps. Many of these post-punk dirges ("Pioneer to the Falls" and "Rest My Chemistry") could easily be confused with their early stuff. And at 50 minutes, the record is a depressing slog.

Interpol's brooding frontman, Paul Banks, remains the biggest offender. He continues to sing in an annoyingly adenoidal tenor; at times, it's hard to determine if he's singing or talking. Lyrically, Banks relies heavily on affected poetry ("Show me the dirt pile / And I will pray that the soul can take three stowaways") and crass aphorisms ("No I in Threesome"). Even when he seems at peace -- "How are things on the West Coast? / Hear you're moving real fine tonight," he sings on the exceptional single "The Heinrich Maneuver" -- those moments are fleeting.

What's worse is that guitarists Banks and Daniel Kessler, bassist Carlos Dengler and drummer Sam Fogarino stick to one irritating playing style: spidery, single-note guitar melodies; murky, unimaginative bass lines; and clumsy mid-tempo beats. So does Interpol have anything going for it? A cool band name and a cool look, that's for sure. But not much else.

Interpol is scheduled to perform at the Virgin Festival at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore on Aug. 5.

-- Kevin O'Donnell

DOWNLOAD THESE: "The Heinrich Maneuver," "Mammoth"

CROSS

Justice

Ear buds busted? You might think so after pumping Justice's acid-washed dance-dirge through your iPod. The French duo have delivered a highly charged debut album where keyboards squeal like broken blow-dryers, and drum machines get fried to a digital crisp. Underneath this holy mess lies the best electronic music album you're likely to hear in 2007.

The pair -- Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay -- have emerged as the premier act on Ed Banger Records, a much-blogged-about coterie of Parisians making mangled dance music equally inspired by heavy metal and Daft Punk. No surprise actually, that much of "Cross" could pass for the new Daft Punk album, thanks to Justice's ability to buttress their black-denim aesthetic with such pleasing polyester bass lines. (The slap-happy bass guitar on "Genesis" would make Rick James proud).

But will the feel-good funk of "D.A.N.C.E." make Michael Jackson blush? The song is a wry homage to the gloved one, with a children's chorus appropriating the lyrics to Jackson hits "P.Y.T." and "Working Day and Night" over a cool, disco groove. "Do the dance / The way you move is a mystery," the kiddies chant sweetly over the chorus. "Waters of Nazareth" doesn't have such a sense a of humor, favoring bludgeoning bass lines and hissing high-hats. As the song reaches its anarchic apogee, the beat drops out to make room for a moaning church organ.

If that doesn't make you a believer, check out "Stress." It finds the duo exploring even more extreme terrain, as they juggle manic string arrangements, air-raid sirens, some harpsichord noodling and a terrifying dentist-drill solo. Against all odds, it compels you to dance and reminds you to floss.

-- Chris Richards

DOWNLOAD THESE: "D.A.N.C.E.," "Waters of Nazareth," "Stress"

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