Nobody makes sullenness seem so stylish as New York's brooding post-punk band Interpol. As part of the so-called post-punk revival in the early- to mid-2000s, the quartet (now a threesome) helped re-popularize a genre largely forgotten by the huddled masses. Alongside the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the White Stripes, Interpol showed that rock 'n' roll music suddenly could chart again. But when it came to guileful shadow play, no one captured it quite like these specialists. (Author's note: "Specialist" is one of their songs.)
The band's debut on Matador Records, Turn on the Bright Lights, was a dimly lit, velvety portrait of littered subway tunnels and the neon-speckled underground sex clubs where you'd imagine a youthful, impressionable Lou Reed might loiter. Interpol was indebted to the gothic freckles evident in Joy Division or the shifty yet evenhandedness of Mission of Burma -- maybe mix in a little Television or the guarded introspection of The Smiths.
But Paul Banks (vocals, guitar), Daniel Kessler (guitar, vocals), Sam Fogarino (drums), and Carlos Dengler (formerly bass, before pursuing an acting career) do it all with contemporary flair, dressing more sharply than their peers, performing with a Kraftwerk-like precision. Their constrained minimalism echoes in their album artwork, springing from their condensed riffs.