Music Reviews
Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper

Julian Plenti Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper

(Matador) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Oh man, I was really worried when I heard The Fun the We Have. I was worried I’d volunteered to review an album I was going to absolutely hate, and I didn’t want to have to dog something that hard. I can’t even play an instrument. Luckily, as is many times the case, the first release from Skyscraper is pretty much the worst track, along with Unwind, and it became clear as I listened that it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Much of it is quieter, cinematic, and, of course, better than Our Love to Admire. Thank God. Sometimes we are impressed by not being miserably disappointed again.

So, Paul Banks is Julian Plenti is…Skyscraper? Meaning Julian Plenti is…a song with three words? I rather wish he’d gone the fully instrumental route a la Ratatat (whose Mike Mogis played guitar on this song) rather than drop in lyrics like “shake me skyscraper,” toward the end of what is otherwise an interesting foray into complicated yet quiet pseudo-electronic soundscapes. The quick yet mournful strumming of Skyscraper is somewhat reminiscent of Interpol’s Hands Away.

The simplistic, Polyphonic Spree-like Unwind, complete with repetitive trumpet bleats, becomes joyous to the point that it throws the other songs into a nauseatingly sharp relief. Julian Plenti doesn’t do happy very well, which is maybe why no one else is at the party depicted on the cover. And we all know that Interpol can make you want to break it down. Paul Banks sounded happier saying he was going to start painting houses than he does telling some girl (presumably) that he’s seeing her face and letting her unwind. Yeah, I’m just about done trying to analyze the lyrics here. But, as I’ve stated before, lyrics don’t make a shit bit of difference to me. If a song is good, it’s good, regardless of the words being said. Look at the Dirty Projector’s incredible Useful Chamber from recent release Bitte Orca. “Bitte Orca” is a refrain chanted many times in the song. Why? What does it mean? Nothing. Or whatever you want to pretend it means. Dave Longstreth thought the words sounded cool together. And he’s right. They do. That Banks’ lyric writing abilities are even more subpar than unusual here doesn’t really factor into my feelings toward the songs, but I have to mention it, and I’m always surprised when something fails lyrically when nonsense often works so well. To summarize this album, a few songs here, such as opener Only If You Run and the evident single Games for Days sound, well, like Interpol songs which are better than anything off of their last album, but not really as good as anything on Antics or TOTBL. But in many songs it becomes evident, even if only for a few moments, that Banks is tentatively trying something new.

3 of the 6 stars I’m giving Skyscraper are for Madrid Song alone. It’s haunting, beautiful, and startlingly, if quietly, DIFFERENT. The inter-spliced, emotional spoken word offers a much needed break from Banks’ droning vocals. The sampling of an elephant’s trumpet blast is perfectly placed and not at all kitschy. It was the first time I felt enveloped by an atmosphere that wasn’t entirely precipitated by Interpol. The wordless H does this as well, making the two shortest songs the strongest successes. And even if these songs (or even just parts of these songs) are just each glimmers of hope that Interpol could come back stronger and more inventive, they should be praised for that… right? I know I’m talking a lot about Interpol, but honestly, this album likely wouldn’t have been produced if this wasn’t Paul Banks from Interpol (as all the targeted Facebook ads have been telling me), and I probably wouldn’t like even this much if I didn’t have such an ingrained love of them. While there’s no getting around that, I can at least recognize it.

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