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“The Rover” Hints at a More Experimental Direction for Interpol

Iconic, long-running post-punk group Interpol have returned with “The Rover,” the first single from their upcoming Dave Fridmann-produced Marauder, announced via live press conference from Mexico City last week. Despite the change in scenery and producer, this newest Interpol song primarily sounds like a new Interpol song, or even an old Interpol song. The shuffle beat is immediately reminiscent of “Say Hello to the Angels,” infused with the all-consuming gloominess of the band’s 2010 self-titled album. After the sinusoidal trajectory of Interpol’s career —two iconic albums followed by a major-label crossover attempt, a dour “experimental” record, and a “back to basics” record—the tone and quality of their next era is anyone’s guess. After last year’s Turn On the Bright Lights victory lap, do they make their most stripped-down album yet? Do they regress to where they were in 2010, when Carlos Dengler left the band and Interpol seemed all but finished?

What they’ve actually done is chosen to work with producer Dave Fridmann, best known for his work with the Flaming Lips. Inspired by his work with Mogwai and Spoon, the group went up to Tarbox Road Studios in Cassadaga, New York to work on the music at the end of last year. As a result, “The Rover” sounds like past Interpol with Fridmann’s trademark fuzziness on top. The guitars have the same boxy, ringing tone they’ve had since “Untitled,” Sam Fogarino’s drums remain frantic and deceptively simple, and Paul Banks’s lyrics, while better than they’ve been (“That’s enough for excitements today” should be instantly iconic), are still impenetrable. With repeat listens, the verse melodies feel labored, and the Fridmann effect feels more perfunctory than visceral than, pushing the needles into the red for no discernible reason.

But behind all that is a great song, one that easily rivals the previous era’s “All the Rage Back Home”—even if the overdriven mix obscures that, and even if it’s still a league away from the classics Interpol spent the past months playing. The chorus features a gorgeous but buried guitar line from Daniel Kessler and some neat flourishes, like Banks’s oohs and the string pads creeping in on the sides of the mix. “Rover” balances the grandiose side of Our Love to Admire with bouncier El Pintor cuts like “My Desire”, and despite the strain of the verses, the song ekes its way out of forced Interpol territory as well.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the album will sound, but those looking for more upbeat songs may be disappointed. To quote Banks at the band’s Mexico City press conference, “The Rover” became the first single because, “in the context of the songs we put together, it’s kind of the most direct and immediately punchy rock song that we have.” If structurally the song could appear on any previous Interpol album, there are enough unique ideas and textures here that Marauder’s artier side sounds promising.

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