It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since Interpol’s debut, Turn on the Bright Lights, hit the scene. The album practically heralded the dawn of the nu-New Wave movement that persists to this day (aping the 80’s is pretty much par for the course for the modern indie band). But in 2002, there was barely a mention of Joy Division before comparisons were heaped on Interpol to an infinite degree.
In truth, they really don’t sound like Joy Division, but the exciting drive and atmosphere of Interpol’s debut was certainly original for its time and understandably made the music of post punk pioneers the easiest reference point.
Turn On the Bright Lights hasn’t lost any of its luster ten years on and still feels fresh after so many listens. Paul Banks’ voice may have gained more dimension later on, but here is effective in its simplicity, and the interplay of leading guitar and bass lines remains unmatched. Songs like “PDA” and “Obstacle 1” are groovy, infectious and unmistakably catchy and “NYC” is an ode-to-New York anthem for a new age, while others like “Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down,” “The New” and “Roland” showcase both an edgier side and a knack for echoey space. There’s nary a dull moment to be found.
This 10th anniversary edition bundles the entire period’s b-sides and early demo tracks, the best of which is “Specialist,” a non-album classic in its own right. Otherwise they’re mostly unremarkable, but it’s interesting to see how the band took simply promising songs to the next level on the finished album. The remastering job does little to improve the sound of the original, and aside from minor clarity, I can barely tell the difference. Not that much has changed in the ways of audio mastering in ten years.
The bonus DVD is nice too, showing just how awkward the band was as a live act early on (though Carlos D was always one of the coolest and most ambidextrous bass players in modern rock). If you somehow never heard this album, now is as good a time as any to dive in. It was an instant classic at the time and is still a benchmark for modern indie rock and the nu-New Wave.