When Interpol came to Australia for the first time, I was sitting my final high school exams (in English, no less) the next day and my mother wouldn’t let me go to their concert even though I bought tickets at considerable expense. I’ve kind of always hated her for that, but I got to fulfill a lifelong dream in New York this afternoon when I saw the frontman of said band, Paul Banks, play a tremendous solo set for KEXP radio at the CMJ headquarters. There were only like 50 people there and I’ve never heard such good sound in my life. It was kind of the greatest affirmation of rock music I’ve had in the last year. I pretty much died standing up.
So what does Paul Banks sound like without the effortless cool of Carlos Dengler and his other black-clad band mates? Well the answer is kind of the same, but also totally different. As his own entity (first as Julian Plenti and then under his own moniker), Banks has carved out a new niche for himself which employs similar characteristics to the band which made him famous but leans towards a heavier, yet more melodic sound. Watching him I remarked to my friend that it sounded like Interpol given a dose of Queens Of The Stone Age. But there’s also, though Banks would loathe the comparison, a tunefulness that harks back to There Is Nothing Left To Lose-era Foo Fighters. Even when he’s pitching down his chords and takes it on a minor turn, he can’t hide the fact that he’s writing more cohesive rock tunes than he has since his band’s breakout album on Matador Records.
‘The Base’, the first single from Banks’ second album, rocked hard today. The man seemed completely in control of both the sound and the direction of his new project; even though that voice remains charismatic and elusive as ever, he’s moved on from Interpol. It’s more texturally diverse, the tempos ebb and flow and he’s moved beyond the post punk to something better rounded. Ultimately, it was just great to see a hero still kicking it like the past never happened and he’s going from scratch. I felt like Julian Casblancas never really did that. But with ‘The Base’, you can hear it and feel it. Even though banks across the world are crumbling, there’s life in this one yet.
Paul Banks – ‘The Base’