Indie rock pioneer Paul Banks is one of the few artists with his hands terribly full of illustrious and talented traits; juggling everything from his own solo material, a project called Julian Plenti, and one of the music scene’s most prolific indie bands, Interpol. Paul Banks’ career and its echoes ring that of a deep hospitality, the kind of hospitality with a sense of belonging and warmth. The kind of hospitality affectionately accepted when likened to sounds such as indie groove-sters, the Editors or the careful finesse of Pinback bodes well with seeming comfortable, but the rootless methodical maturity that Paul Banks displays is that of an old rocking chair worn with the struggles and joys of time. His signature stoic charm doesn’t mimic Matt Berninger but heralds a similar baritone quality that is both simultaneously depressing and perfectly catchy. All in the span of a 40-minute album Banks is able to lull, create tension, and provide inimitable qualities almost guaranteed to incite another listen. Just to make sure you heard for yourself correctly the first time around.
It would be effortless for the fall back plan to be of a more hypercritical nature in a setting when given the opportunity to review material from an artist who has an extensive history and library. Fortunately (and unfortunately) for someone attempting to review, criticize and offer advice I find myself confused at the route to take considering my feedback on Paul Banks newest release. It’s unclassifiable. It’s carefully confusing. And in his own words, “ relax, we’re safe and that’s all that matters.” The cryptic manner in which Banks approaches his music is all but prosaic. The interwoven guitar licks are a bit untimely on “The Base” as they fade in and out of the beat and the vocals are pitter-pattered throughout. “Another Chance” is a spoken word dialogue from a film done by a friend of Banks, which adds a contemporary diversity to the album, but it doesn’t necessarily fit into the rhythm and chemistry of the album. Many of the songs are of this nature where they are able to reach the groove but don’t truly excite.
He has lost none of his vocal potency on this album, and as with Interpol and Julien Pienti there is a clear groove apparent on the whole of the songs. There are some tracks however, that lose their focus with spells of fever-ish string arrangements and an unclear musical direction. The guitars and drums machines and electronic selections are a bit unlistenable. There are some redeeming qualities, however, with a solid groove-ridden guitar fashion show with “I’ll Sue You” and an eccentric but extremely tasteful European guitar ballad in “Lisbon”. Paul Banks’ lyrics are heartfelt and contemplative, depressing and cathartic, his vocals are what you would expect from the Interpol captain but Banks as a whole is frantic and incohesive. It still belts the classic Paul Banks slow, sad but yet mightily effective charisma though. This album needs the consistency and rigid professionalism of Interpol’s musicians and arrangements. If there is one thing that doesn’t disappoint on this album however, it is the fervent gothic vocal ability of Mr. Banks. Buy this album if you are a Paul Banks fiend, but don’t listen to it above Antics or Julian Plenti Is…. Skyscrapers, which are ultimately overzealous when it comes to catchy, commanding tunes. Banks came out via Matador Records on October 22nd.