Turn On The Bright Lights


Matador Records, 2002


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Ambition has typically been frowned upon in the indie world. Even though the Strokes are fairly mainstream, they strive to achieve a scrappy, loose sound. As pretentious as Pavement was in its career, the members put forth a ton of effort to make their albums sound like they were recorded on the first take in a garage.

As good as this approach is for bands, it is equally admirable when an indie band makes a legitimate stab at greatness. In 2002, Interpol dared to be a polished New York band and released one of the best debut albums of this decade with my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Turn on the Bright Lights. It ranks up with the best works of Sisters of Mercy and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Of course, when you're making a goth album, you either hit a bulls-eye or you make an album that is more suited for a second-rate vampire flick than your headphones. Many Joy Division purists decried Interpol for stealing their sound. What these music snobs fail to realize is that originality alone doesn't make a great band. If that were the case, Ween would be the best band in the world.

What Turn on The Bright Lights lacks in originality, it more than makes up in atmosphere and sound. Lead singer and main lyricist Paul Banks knows how to make a song stick in your head. The music in Turn on The Bright Lights is never cluttered, leaving Banks to do his best Robert Smith-meets-Ian Curtis impersonation. And in true goth fashion, the emotions are more bloated than the diary of a freshman theatre major. In "NYC," Banks compares the New York subway to a porno. In "Stella Was a Driver and She Was Always Down," Banks one-ups Marlon Brando for the best yelling of the name "Stella!"

The best debut albums are able to transport you to environments far removed from your surrounds, be it the ghettos of Compton (NWA's Straight Outta Compton) or the dirty strip circuits of Las Angeles (G'NR's Appetite for Destruction). With Turn on the Bright Lights, the listener is transported to blacklit rave clubs ("Say Hello to Angels"), dirty subways and post September 11 New York. With music this good, who cares if it's nothing you haven't heard of before? If the best artists steal, Turn on the Bright Lights is an epic heist worth celebrating.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2003 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Matador Records, and is used for informational purposes only.