Banks is Paul Banks’ third solo album and the first not released under the pseudonym Julian Plenti. Julian Plenti was an alias he created to represent the music he had written before joining Interpol, and now that he’s gotten that out of the way, he feels free to use his real name. That sense of liberation informs Banks, which was released this week on Matador, approximately 10 years after the first Interpol album, the acclaimed Turn On The Bright Lights.
It’s difficult not to compare Banks to Interpol because most of its songs don’t sound much different than the type of puffed-up tracks offered up on the band’s 2007 record, Our Love To Admire, and the best ones here, such as the charmingly subdued “Arise, Awake” and wistful closer “Summertime Is Coming,” wouldn’t be out of place on early Interpol EPs, like Fukd I.D. #3. His songwriting on this album simply doesn’t stray far enough from the well-traveled, melancholic Interpol territory to force you to consider him as a new entity.
Every song seems to be influenced by the bitterness that can often accompany aging, and these themes are highlighted by Banks’s signature confounding lyrics, with some odd samples of background chatter scattered here and there. The album opener and first single, “The Base,” pulsates and drags along mechanically, with awkward shifts in the song that don’t lighten or humanize the situation at all. Banks’s dry rah-rahs in “Young Again” are a perfect example of the stale air of disinterest and the dry, disaffected tone the album wallows in.
It’s unfortunate that Banks isn’t about finding serenity, gaining wisdom, falling in love or something—anything a bit more lighthearted. That type of thematic variety might have given Banks the buoyancy to differentiate his solo work from his already anxiety-filled past efforts. The passive, languid tone of this album often translates into emotionless muck. His songs could also benefit from outspoken anger and aggressiveness—the flashes of feeling Interpol used to display on its early songs—something that might lift him out of the musical sinkhole he seems to be in now.