Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Julian Plenti - "Games for Days"

We received the lead single for Julian Plenti's "Is...Skyscraper" today. Julian Plenti is the alias of Interpol front man, post-punk revivalist, and all-around moper Paul Banks. In 2002, they were hipster darlings; Turn on the Bright Lights received universally positive reviews (especially from Pitchfork), their videos were in rotation on MTV2 (yes, at one point it wasn't all just "Rob and Big" and "Viva La Bam" reruns, for a couple years they played videos regularly), and their songs were all over TV shows like Friends and The OC. I was an early supporter, and was one of the few people I knew who wasn't completely disappointed in their 2004 lukewarm follow up Antics. My main complaint was that the reverb and echo drenched atmosphere of the debut was refined somewhat, and put in the background. The angular, almost British late 1970s/early 1980s guitar-sound dominates the album and, of course, the band's backbone, Carlos Dengler's bass playing is still very much in the forefront. This isn't to say the ominous but familiar tone of TotBL was completely lost, it just didn't seem as important. Again, I stress that I wasn't completely disappointed. At the end of today, like with any record, it's the songs that count. The band got bigger, and moved onto to greener pastures, leaving indie stalwart Matador for Capitol records. Their first release on Capitol, 2007's Our Love to Admire didn't feature their usual mopery and was a little, well, brighter. It sold well, really well actually, but didn't achieve the same level of praise as their first two records, but was still relatively well received (I wasn't a big fan of that record. They just sounded too complacent).

So, since 2007, drummer Sam Fogarino started a side project (Magnet Morning) with the dude from Swervedriver, bassist Carlos Dengler continues to DJ on the side as well as provide remixes for other band's stuff, and guitarist Dan Kessler is apparently just kind of laying low. That leaves Banks. Earlier this year, his solo album (to be released under the name Julian Plenti, an alias he apparently used to perform under pre-Interpol) was announced. Very few details were given, aside from a cover and a track listing.

Well not anymore.

"Games for Days" didn't do a whole lot for me. It doesn't sound too distant from Interpol's work to warrant a release under a different name. The radio edit clocks in at 3:49, so to be fair, I might be missing a bitching guitar solo or some profound lyrics from an excised bridge. The song isn't bad just kind of boring. It features that sort of post-punk guitar sound Interpol's been at for years, although grainier and lacking in reverb. The occasional punchy, muted, almost chugging from the guitars isn't really my thing either. Seems out of place. The fluid, throbbing bass provided by Dengler on the Interpol albums is also absent. It may be the stereo I'm using, but that was the first thing I noticed. The lack of a thumping bassline. The basslines were usually my favorite part of Interpol songs. The song has almost a dance pop drum beat with the drums themselves sounding a little less than organic. Major emphasis on the bass drum too. It feels too much like a retread of Interpol's material, without the sunglasses, black suits, and cigarette smoke that made their first album such a highlight. This is only one song though, and from the information I've been able to find on the album (which is limited, I could only find a couple early reviews) the album is split between this sort of rock stuff and a more thoughtful, solo acoustic performance. Time will tell.

Julian Plenti - "Games for Days" 2.5/5

Julain Plenti is...Skyscraper will be available August 4th from Matador Records

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