Banks, the second solo offering from Interpol front man Paul Banks, opens with the driving and yet ethereal track The Base. And it is indeed ‘the bass’ that sets the tone of this album – it’s beautifully enigmatic.
“What I draw today, will be recognised as shape” are the album’s first vocals, although, I am curious to know what ‘shape’ Banks himself would describe this album as. To me it sounds rather ‘shapeless’, and I don’t mean that necessarily in a negative sense, quite the contrary. Banks gives us a selection of incredibly rich songs that are deeply filled with layer upon layer of unusual sounds and instruments; these are mixed together in such an intricate fashion they become esoteric – the more times you listen, the more gems you discover within each song. Banks also conveys clearly that he is a master of arrangement; he uses melodies, rhythm and noise bites, and manipulates them into an unconventional tune. Song formats are thrown out of the window, and Banks presents to us ideas and atmospheres as opposed to a linear song. The album feels like a recondite mist rather than any specific ‘shape’.
Unfortunately, Paul Banks has a voice that is so accustomed to Interpol that at times it feels hard to distinguish his solo work from his bands work. His fervent, baritone voice immediately connotes Interpol, and therefore restricts a great deal of this solo material. To elaborate, where the musical side of the record sounds sophisticated, relaxed and mature; upon hearing Banks’ vocal the listener is transported to the restless, naive, darkness of earlier Interpol material. I guess in terms of Banks’ voice – with all great gifts comes a price.
However, demonstrated in tracks Lisbon and more specifically, Another Chance Banks is able to convey his new niche, completely detached from Interpol. Both songs are entirely instrumental, with the exception of the repetition of a piece of dialogue taken from the obscure film Blackout, in Another Chance. Like, most of the music on the album, the track is lustrous and yet dark and edgy – the layering and use of repetition builds tension and suggests to the listener something bigger, some light or promise waiting at the end of the tunnel. It is simply prefect movie-soundtrack material; and this, I feel is where Banks’ future lies. He writes beautiful hooks and rhythms that work perfectly at creating pictures in the listeners mind. We do not need Banks’ vocals to tell us anything in this album; the music does enough talking for itself.