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Banks
Paul Banks Banks
Released 19 October 2012
Producer(s) Paul Banks, Peter Katis
Label Matador
Length 39:41
Genre Indie rock
Website www.bankspaulbanks.com
77

Solo albums are a curious entity. There is a certain time in a band’s natural lifespan, usually when the inevitable artistic and commercial decline has begun, when there surfaces (usually, but not always, from the frontman) a desire to "pursue other projects", and the band trot out that other much used euphemism – "we’ve decided as a group to go on a hiatus." This usually suggests that (a) the band members have grown sick of each other and / or (b) they’ve run out of ideas. Then the aforementioned singer releases his album, followed by howls of "it sounds too much like X / doesn’t sound enough like X" (delete as appropriate). Singer realises he can’t win, returns to the band for the obligatory reunion tour.

Banks is Interpol frontman Paul Banks’ second solo effort, but his first under his own name, following 2009’s Julien Plenti Lives. It comes in the wake of Interpol’s poorly received, self titled fourth album, the loss of bassist and founder member Carlos D, and the recent admission by drummer Sam Fogarino that the band needed to regroup, take a long hiatus, and pursue personal projects. It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that all is not rosy in the Interpol camp these days, in contrast to the euphoria surrounding the group after the release of Turn On The Bright Lights, currently being reissued to commemorate its tenth anniversary. As one would expect, in the midst of such upheaval, Banks’ solo effort is a cathartic affair, with the singer in reflective and confessional mood, and while he doesn’t stray a million miles away from the Interpol template, there is certainly enough invention and spark in the ten tracks to make it a worthwhile listen, and a useful addition to the collection of any fan of the New York outfit.

The two standout tracks bookend the album: opener 'The Base' has a nocturnal groove, which builds to an uplifting final chorus as we find Banks in uncharacteristically life affirming form, suggesting that, "now and then I can see those beauties that shun my eyes." Closing track 'Summertime is Coming' is redolent of Antics-era Interpol, with its insistent guitar and precise staccato drumming; it is an excellent track, well worthy of taking its place in Interpol’s impressive back catalogue. It ends on a plaintive, uncertain note, as is typical of much of this album: for every moment of light, there is a dark shade lurking around the corner. As with his Interpol work, Banks repeatedly comes back to the darker side of life and fame for his lyrical inspiration; 'Another Chance' consists of a sampled voice pleading for forgiveness – "Sometimes people fuck up....don’t you get that?" One gets the impression that Banks is being brutally honest here, but there is also sardonic detachment to be felt in 'Young Again', a mid tempo ballad where he comes across every bit the jaded rock star.

All in all, Banks delivers everything you would expect from a Paul Banks solo album. In truth, it cries out at times for the sense of purpose that has been one of Interpol’s trademarks; there is a little padding here and there, some instrumental cuts that could have been weeded out at the editing stage, some fussy and unfocussed arrangements. Having said that, it confirms that Paul Banks is a singer and songwriter of immense talent and vision and suggests that if Interpol can put their mid-life crises behind them, they are capable of making fresh and relevant music, and, who knows, maybe reaching the heights they scaled in the middle of the last decade.

- Ken O’Meara