Monday, September 30, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Paul Banks

In the sweeping history of Interpol's big collapse from “next big thing” to “plodding, directionless, Joy Division rip”, most people would tend to point the finger at Paul Banks. As notorious for confusing lyrics as he is for his robotic voice, Banks' solo career is fairly easy to dismiss. Considering that it started at around the same time Interpol theoretically fell off a cliff (a statement I disagree with), and was never met with much enthusiasm, why is it worth talking about?

As a huge Interpol fan who has to deal with the stigma of enjoying their self-titled album as much as the much-preferred Antics, I was incredibly disappointed by ...Is Skyscraper, Banks' first deviation from the Interpol label under the pseudonym Julian Plenti. Drawing mostly from material he had written as a teenager, the album's lyrics were horrible and the songwriting was borderline appalling. What didn't help was the intentionally off-putting instrumentation, filled with unnecessary synths and drum machines. Tracks like “The Girl on the Sporting News” effectively killed any momentum gained by the standout (and I mean standout as in the diamond in the pile of garbage) “Only if You Run”. The album was met with awful reviews by critics and complete indifference by fans, and that was the end of Julian Plenti's misadventure. Back to Interpol, right?

Well, at first. Two years after the criminally and understandably underrated and impenetrable Interpol, Banks released one last EP related to his euro-trash alter-ego. Julian Plenti Lives passed absolutely under my radar, and that of many other fans. His debut, finally released under his own, much more aesthetically pleasing name, Banks was released in autumn 2012 to... silence. I would never have even heard of it had I not glancingly recognized the name Paul Banks on Pitchfork. Other than the small press from a hurricane-affected gig on David Letterman to a poetically appropriate empty crowd, it seemed that Banks had lost all of his musical credibility as Julian Plenti. The album few cared about became one of my favourites of the year. The instrumentation became more guitar-based, exchanging most of the ugly synths for pianos and strings. Tracks like “The Base” and “Young Again” were better singles than much of the material on Interpol, and the deep cuts were actually pleasant to listen to. While no classic, Banks is an excellent indie album and well worth the attention of any Interpol fan or even a fan of somewhat avant-garde guitar pop.

Is a postlude on Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be necessary? I think not.

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