Album Review: Interpol – A Fine Mess

It’s a drab Wednesday afternoon here in Leeds; I peer out the window to see concrete walls stained with rain and a sky as dour as the people walking in it.

It’s a near-perfect atmosphere to dig back into the works of NYC’s finest, Interpol.

Though the band aren’t completely depressive, their music at times does conjure a sense of melancholy; even Our Love To Admire in its joyous moments did make you think about what lay beneath the visage. That’s what makes Interpol’s music so pertinent – their ability even at their most hedonistic to wonder when the party ends and the sense of hopelessness begins.

It’s a warm hopelessness – this is, after all, a band who released a music video involving a puppet in a car crash and rushed into an emergency room (“Evil”.) There’s also the persistent rumour the song is about Fred and Rosemary West which only adds to the macabre aspects Interpol have brought to audiences.

A Fine Mess is a curious inclusion into the band’s catalogue. The last time the group released a proper EP was back in 2003 (The Black EP) with a host of remix EP’s and bonus tracks, in the case of El Pintor, in between. In fairness, A Fine Mess could fall into the same school as El Pintor Bonus Tracks – are we getting cuts from the editing room floor? For what reason did these tracks not make Marauder?

Full disclosure – Marauder wasn’t my favourite Interpol album. It’s not where I would direct people interested in the band to go to, and having survived El Pintor I just couldn’t bring myself to give it the repeat listens others did. I can appreciate then why A Fine Mess would become its own release – because to include it as mere “bonus” tracks would be a disservice to those very tracks themselves.

The one-sheet describes A Fine Mess as “a linear continuation of the kinetic and contagious energy set loose with Marauder”, which is very true. It would be hard to completely remove the energy the band brought specifically for that recording session. However, the five songs themselves seem to have their own pacing that would feel a little hodge-podge to appear on Marauder.

Which is why “Fine Mess”, “The Weekend” and “No Big Deal” warranted this separate release. The cynic in me does think that yeah, perhaps between albums Matador are wanting to ensure that Interpol are still present especially given their upcoming tour and European festival circuit. But the realist in me understands how precocious musicians can be – hell, the independent label owner in me knows how precocious musicians can be.

If Banks and company didn’t feel comfortable including these five songs on their album, then that is their prerogative. Perhaps they’ve taken interest from the aesthetic of developing found photography and wished to use those tracks to create a new piece of art with a completely different narrative – a one-shot, to use a comic book term.

Sonically, it walks away from the pure post-punk aspects the band have become renowned for and seems a little more inspired by NYC’s dancepunk scene from the early millennia. Of course, achieved with a sense of dourness once again. “No Big Deal” drives this idea home with an off-kilter drum beat and a more hedonistic melody that Interpol interject into their works from time to time.

It’s certainly a work that elicits a dance if played in the club (do indie clubs still exist? Please respond accordingly), and if you are an Interpol fan then certainly this is worth checking out. If, however, you’re new to the group, then maybe it would pay to go down one of two paths:

Path 1) You like the uplifting moments the music provides – Our Love To Admire is a great starting to point.
Path 2) You are enchanted by Paul Banks voice and the more discordant, unsettling moments – Antics will probably serve you best to discover the band.

Let’s be honest though – all roads in terms of discovering Interpol lead to Turn On The Bright Lights. But in terms of bands throwing out bonus material, at least Interpol have the decency to cultivate a work itself rather than an arbitrary lolly scramble of things that didn’t fit.

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