In a post on the number five song on my Best tunes of 2001 list, The Strokes’ “Last nite”, I wrote about how that band was at the vanguard of an indie rock revival. Then, two songs later with The White Stripes’ “Fell in love with a girl”, I spoke about how this revival was led by two very distinct scenes: one in Detroit and the other in New York City. Many of the bands that came out of the latter scene cut their teeth playing in a now defunct club called The Luna Lounge, much like many a post-punk outfit in the same city did in another long-since-closed club called CBGB. Indeed, Manhattan and the burroughs saw lots of musical action in the years following the turn of the millennium, giving rise to bands like the aforementioned Strokes, Ambulance LTD, Longwave, Stellastarr, Bishop Allen, and of course, Interpol.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when I first heard the post-punk revivalist quartet but I certainly remember when I first decided I liked them. It was definitely not too long after the release of their debut, “Turn on the bright lights”, because we were living in the ‘hood* and we had the use of my mother-in-law’s car. The green cavalier would eventually became ours in an unofficial sense but for a couple years there, we took turns with my brother-in-law in possessing it. During my commutes to work around the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003, I had discovered the local university and college radio stations and on one of these afternoon drives home, I realized that one of the aspiring DJs had decided to forego a real playlist and had just set Interpol’s debut to play from beginning to end. And yeah, while driving the heavy traffic up the Vanier parkway, it just clicked.
“Obstacle 1” follows “Untitled” as track two on the album and if the first song serves as an intro, our song today is the exclamation point. It’s all staccato guitars and bass, frontman Paul Banks’ deep and foreboding vocals, clearing up whether those Joy Division comparisons are fair or overwrought. You don’t get much more angular and austere than here, but we’re not just rehashing and reviving a too long dormant genre but breathing in new life and energy. Great tune on an incredible debut.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.
* For those unfamiliar with Ottawa, Vanier is a part of the city just on the other side of the Rideau river from downtown. It was at the time a lower income neighbourhood that was constantly under threat of regentrificafion due to its location and wasn’t our first choice of areas to live but the rent was affordable. Truth be told, only sections of it were bad and the one in which we lived wasn’t really one of those so the term ‘hood is one of endearment.