Having cultivated a persona from the collective overcast psyche of Interpol, frontman Paul Banks sidestepped the spot light with his first solo project choosing instead to trade under the pseudonym Julian Plenti on 2009’s Julian Plenti Is…Skyscraper. Moving from the band’s back-lit brooding to shelter under this guise indicated a reluctance to expose himself as a solo artist. The Julian Plenti Lives EP released earlier this year was his first outing using his own name and helped ease the movement between ego and alter-ego rather than push any new direction. Banks has him wear his own skin for the first time – there are no band members flanking him, no alternate moniker hiding his identity – but the music doesn’t lose the intensity that has become synonymous with the Interpol brand. This is very much a case of ‘out of the shadow and into the shade’.
Although Julian Plenti was recognizable as Banks, those songs for the most part dated back to pre-Interpol times, lending them a certain scattershot personality. The group’s inception at the turn of the millennium had them as an intense, reactionary growl in the face of global malaise but there is a more personal and less aggressive nature to his solo material. This album features a more directed, less calculatedly chaotic selection of songs that ring distinctly of contemporary New York (the recurrent drums on ‘Over My Shoulder’ recalling Friends’ second single ‘Friends Crush’).
String sections, synths and audio samples are littered throughout Banks, lending it an organic scope that contrasts to Interpol’s cold Gothic style and has him separate himself from his status as the band vocalist. The inclusion of instrumental tracks ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Another Chance’ let the music speak for itself with the latter creating an escalating sense of delirium through repeating vocal samples, a cacophony of strings and crashing hi-hats.
The sardonic ‘Young Again’ maybe sums up where Paul Banks is as an artist right now: its lazy “I’m young again/Thanks a lot” chorus showing that he has matured into a different person and musician since the band’s beginning; recreating the stomp of Interpol’s heyday holds no interest. What he has conjured is an album showcasing the breadth of his talent with a dramatic flair that gives him a stamp of his own.