“Their Older Stuff Was Better” and The Bethesda Effect


Last year, Interpol released their El Pintor, an excellent album filled with hooks, grooves, and some surprisingly daring vocals from Paul Banks who I’ve previously mentioned in my articles has a love for singing in an ALL CAPS MONOTONE. It was, by all accounts, a good album, and certainly their most critically successful since they released Antics ten years prior. Yet a cloud hung over the album, a phrase that was spoken with a casual grace that belies it’s endemic presence in today’s music culture: “Their older stuff was better.”

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Understanding the Decemberists in 13 Songs

The Decemberists are nothing less than the band that got me into indie rock, albeit in a very non-indie way: back in January of 2009, I was watching a rerun of one of my favorite episodes of How I Met Your Mother, “Ted Mosby, Architect”. During the episode’s denouement, as Ted Mosby walks the streets of New York and muses on his relationship woes, the seminal Decemberists’ track “Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect” plays. I’d seen the episode before, but something inside me told me to look up the song this time — and just a month later I had purchased all five of the Decemberists’ LPs (including the newly released The Hazards of Love) and was at the beginning of a relationship that I still find myself in. They’ve provided the soundtrack of my past 6 years, good and bad, and with their new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World there’s no better time to fall in love with them again — or for the very first time.

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The Decemberists – “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World”

We know, we know, we belong to ya.
We know you built your life around us.
And would we change? We had to change some.

And with that, the Decemberists begin their 7th album with a knowing wink, a sad and insightful look at the relationship between a band and its audience. And sure enough, the Decemberists have changed: What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” is their poppiest, most buoyant album yet. Unfortunately, it’s also their least ambitious and exciting.

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What in the World “Combat Salacious Removal” Means, and Why Abstract Lyrics Work

Sometimes I don’t know why I love the things I love. I was sitting in my room and doing homework this weekend while blasting through Interpol’s 2004 album Antics, singing along to the track “Length of Love”. It’s a great track, starting around a sinister guitar part before it shifts into the kind of ersatz-punk-disco that Interpol is known for. Naturally I’m singing along, but when I get to the chorus I stop and ask myself, “What in the world did I just sing?” See, I had to ask this question because the chorus is just a three word motif sung in Paul Banks’ ALL CAPS monotone. The words? (And I’m not making this up) “COMBAT SALACIOUS REMOVAL”.

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