I realised today that I watch ‘Friends’ far too much for it to be healthy, and I really mean that. I happily watch all ten seasons over and over again all the time. Frank Lloyd Wright said that television was “chewing gum for the eyes”; ‘Friends’ is like a visual recreational drug. If you watch ‘Friends’, you automatically become a financially comfortable, witty, attractive 25-35 year old whose pushy parents, inner demons or crippling lack of confidence are seen as cheerful bumps along the road you can laugh along with. Not only that, but Rachel, Ross, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler and Monica are now YOUR friends too. This is aspirational television at its most perfectly written, charming and soul destroying because you will never be like them. ‘Friends’ is also the prime culprit of glamorising New York for my generation; a neon-lit land of opportunity served with coffee and cheesecake. The New York glamour seen in ‘Friends’ though has a very different flip-side. Interpol’s New York is just as romantic, just as brightly lit, but infested with dissatisfaction and missing the fulfilment that the city promises in every other song you’ve heard. An album like ‘Antics’ has that characteristic ringing guitar sound that matches the band’s suit-and-tie attire, but the lyrics are born out of barely contained frustration. So far this sounds like the band’s incredible debut ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’, but ‘Antics’ has a brighter, less atmospheric and more to-the-point sound. It’s sharper, though the songs take more plays to get into than ‘…Bright Lights’. Nonetheless, it’s a really solid record. It starts with a strident optimistic opener at ‘Next Exit’ that sounds like it’s on a road trip to start a new life in the city, and follows with nine great, brooding rock songs to poison the well. It’s as influenced by post-punk bands such as the murky Mancunians Joy Division and the arty streetwise Americans Television. ‘Evil’ hisses at the aspirational outlooks sold to us by squeaky clean adverts and TV shows over alluring bass lines and chiming chords; the protagonist of ‘C’mere’ attempts to woo the object of his affection one last time before resignedly collapsing on his single bed in his one-bedroom apartment while the music rises and falls in hopeful/hopeless peaks and troughs; things turn sinister on tracks like ‘Length Of Love’ which suggest manipulation and disaffection whereas other songs express an aching, palpable affection and empathy for a lost cause, as in my personal favourite ‘Narc’ which focuses on a boyfriend unsuccessfully trying to tempt his lover away from terminal drug abuse. ‘Narc’ has all the tension of a phone conversation between the couple as well as a sense of powerlessness and the despair that surrounds the chorus is nothing short of heartbreaking.
‘Antics’ shows a definite, but subtle, shift in style for Interpol. True it’s not as good as ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’ (to be honest not many albums are as good as ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’) but it’s full of really great songs and feels really cohesive and strong. Another great thing about it is that, even though it’s a slow burner, it’s also a long-burner; many songs here are difficult to “know” but are still really good, meaning that listening to them over again brings more pleasure every time. ‘Friends’ is a classic example of aspirational TV, but ‘Antics’ is slightly aspirational in itself simply because of the personalities that inhabit these songs; you want to know them, and though it’s probably Interpol’s most accessible album, it’s also cloistered and reserved which makes it all the more intriguing and enduring.
Listen to this: in New York.
Key Track: Narc