Scraping the minimalist sky

This is not simply another Interpol album. Or at least Julian Plenti doesn’t want you to think so. “Skyscraper” is the debut album from Julian Plenti, the moniker for the lead singer of Interpol.  The new LP compiles tracks Paul Banks performed from 1998 to 2006 as an acoustic solo artist in Manhattan. This amalgam of b-sides and lonely piano tunes amounts to more than stripped-down versions of Interpol songs, but the result is unsuccessful more often than not.     Even before the familiar drone of Banks’s voice begins, the opening track, “Only if You Run,” starts off with downbeat, minor chords reminiscent of Interpol. At first, the similar themes of frustration and doubt come to the forefront, but Banks’s opening song puts a positive spin on these daily struggles with his lyrics. If Banks had continued the album in a similar fashion, recreating the style that he and his compatriots had created and loved for 11 years, his first solo effort could have been a thriving success. Instead, as many lead singers do on their solo albums, he decided to experiment with his traditional form and create acoustic guitar and piano-heavy songs that expose his distinctive voice. The title track, “Skyscraper,” is the embodiment of his new approach, dabbling with strings and with an added unintelligible noise in an almost completely instrumental piece. Yet his definitive voice gets lost in melancholy, desolate sound waves on this stripped-down piece. Throughout the album, Banks struggles to find a common medium between soft piano ballads and his familiar minor chord melodies of years past. While “No Chance Survival” tells the tale of his personal thoughts in an eerie introspective fashion, “Unwind” acts as the anthemic, distortion-heavy, radio-friendly account of addictive love. After three albums heavy with narrative about forlorn love, Banks speaks of love in a more general sense on “Skyscraper,” focusing on love only in “Girl on the Sporting News,” in which he swoons over a television personality. A mediocre album up until the last song, the lead singer of Interpol attempts to create an experimental, acoustic song to wrap up the solo effort on “H,” and ends up creating a piece well out of his league. More fit for a lo-fi, ambient album, Eastern-tinged “H” has Banks trying out odd noises and experimenting with voice. As a result, the album’s final track causes puzzled listeners to wonder why Banks’s debut fell into an abyss of emptiness. In the midst of waiting for a fourth studio Interpol album, Banks strayed from his post-punk roots and created a lo-fi, singer/songwriter mix of minimalist songs. Although a worthwhile learning experience, the songs show that Interpol’s primary strength is their ability to build songs with multiple instruments and contemplative, complex lyrics.