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You can forgive Paul Banks for hiding behind an alter-ego on his 2009 release Julian Plenti is… Skyscraper, the first solo effort for the enigmatic Interpol frontman. In removing this mask for his second solo album – the succinctly titled Banks – he further isolates his art from the collective works of Interpol, experimenting with structure and layering whilst still creating dark moments of post-punk revivalism.
Working with producer Peter Katis (Interpol, Jónsi, The National), Banks has molded an album that is somehow concurrently understated and overstated. Whilst it is not as accessible as the structured and sharp tones of Interpol, attentive listening rewards one with almost innumerable nuances and intricacies.
It’s clear that Banks is confident in isolating himself from his critically-acclaimed group, yet remains apprehensive about whether or not this isolation will be accepted. On the album’s lead track, The Base, he muses ‘Can a man turn a page / While he’s trying to amaze?’. There is a clear emphasis on layering and dynamics, even at this point. The song oscillates between a measured swagger and a moody reflectiveness, becoming somewhat representative of the album as a whole.
There are a number of moments where Banks’ work becomes noticeably filmic, driven at times by slightly post-rock instrumentation. Instrumental track Lisbon initially presents itself as gentle, before its string-saturated sections swell and its rise-and-fall dynamics take full effect.
This dramatic intensity permeates other tracks like Paid for That and Another Chance. The former is dark and brooding, and allows Banks to highlight the emotional versatility of his distinct vocal style. The latter, which incorporates vocal loops and cold piano lines, comes across as honest music written by someone in an unstable frame-of-mind.
Interpol fans hoping for at least one stripped-back rock track with a relentless drumline to appear on Banks may be disappointed. The closest Banks gets to the Interpol sound is on No Mistakes, but even then he employs electronic percussion and heavily layered textures. His thought-provoking prose-like lyrics remain, however, and they render the album as both honest and draped in imagery.
For all his perfectionism, it seems that Paul Banks has come to accept that he, like anything, isn’t perfect. While his second full-length solo effort is somewhat scattered and more experimental in comparison to his past work, it suggests that he doesn’t want his artistic growth to be limited in any way.