What’s in a name? Paul Banks might be a good person to ask – the Interpol singer is releasing his second solo album not as Julian Plenti, the moniker he used for his first solo effort, but under his real name.
There are, of course, songs that sound like Interpol – Banks’ disembodied vocals shimmering over ominous, paranoid melodies on Paid for That, I’ll Sue You (which contains one of the most oddly and pointlessly litigious choruses of modern times, if not ever) and No Mistakes. But there are also those on which Banks, like he did as Plenti, moves away slightly from the band that made his name.
The Base pares down those synthetic effects for its gentle choral refrain, Banks proclaiming in his natural voice that “Now and then I can see the truth above the lies”. Certainly, it’s a playful acknowledgement of Banks’ identity swapping, but it still bears resemblance to his previous incarnations. The same can be said of the almost acoustic, gentle lull of Arise, Awake.
It’s on Lisbon and Another Chance that Banks really forges his own, individual identity – and ironically so, because these are the tracks which feature the singer least. The former is a semi-tropical instrumental, and an ultimately innocuous one at that, while the latter loops quotes from obscure film Blackout over an increasingly spooky, sinister, X-Files-esque leitmotif. It’s certainly the album’s most interesting and distinctive moment, though it bears little resemblance to the rest of it.
Normal service resumes by the end of the record, however, with the distinctly Interpol-recaling closer Summertime Is Coming exposing Banks’ frail humanity with its fragile, sorrowful, acoustic denouement. It is, alongside Another Chance, the zenith of this set. Hence, two wildly different songs serve as the highlights of this curious, curate’s egg of an album.
While it lacks focus and cohesive identity, the album Paul Banks named after himself does demonstrate that there’s more to this artist than previous form suggests.