Examining Interpol's Lyrics Ten Years After Turn on the Bright Lights


From "Obstacle 2" - Because friends don't waste wine when there's words to sell
This felt to many like a reference to the plague of networking, one-upmanship and politicking that swept through New York indie rock after the Strokes put the city back on the map. Others ventured outside the confines of the text, highlighting the malevolent energy in the song's bass line in pointing to this as the first evidence to the tensions that simmered between Banks and Interpol bassist Carlos D.

Today, scrubbed of intrigues, it can be appreciated for what it is: proof-positive that Paul Banks was obsessed with Slowdive.

From "Roland" - My friend's a butcher, he has sixteen knives/ He carries them all over town/ At least he tries/ Oh look it stopped snowing
This obviously needs no explanation.


From "NYC" - The subway/ She is a porno
Easily the most cited, most puzzled-over couplet in the Banks oeuvre, it was long viewed as a succinct (if imperfect) attempt to encapsulate New York's seething transit system.

Today, the prophetic quality of that line shines. Turn on the Bright Lights didn't just define the New York City music scene -- it presaged much of what lay in store for American culture: the deep, ongoing gloominess; the rise of timbre and atmosphere over melody in indie pop; people wearing suits. Banks understood that improvements in technology would make those ugly tubes cleaner, brighter, more efficient; we ignore the possibility that he understood the massive budgetary problems which would plague both at our peril. The subway, really and truly, is a porno.

The true lyrical giants -- Bob Dylan, Charles Baudelaire, Too $hort -- tend to do their best work in their 20s, when the lamps of passion burn their hottest. Today, we welcome Paul Banks into their esteemed company.





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2 comments
mglushakoff
mglushakoff

This article isn't nearly as clever as you seem to think. making jokes about his lyrics misses the point that he means a lot of these lyrics AS A JOKE already.

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