Julian Plenti isn’t really a new band, rather it’s the sidecar for Interpol frontman Paul Banks. His latest release on Matador, Julian Plenti is…Skyscraper, attempts to re-up the ante for his career, and honestly, that of his band. After a brief departure into a more mainstream approach Banks is seen hear , expectedly, treading the ground he’s walked upon for so long now.
Opening track “Only if You Run” demonstrates that despite going it alone, his heart is never too far away from his mainstay. However, the trickling guitar lines show a touch of brightness, which also seems to collide with the lyrical content. He does however bring back that recognizable throaty vocal when he shouts “surprise” near the end of the track.
“Skyscraper” begins with a great deal of promise for new direction, as punctuated guitar strumming is accompanied by symphonic flourishes. It’s a brooding number, one that might benefit greatly for some strong vocals, and just as you think there won’t be any, Banks enters the picture. Haunting as he can be, it would have been nice to see him go a bit further in this direction on the entire record.
“Games for Days” probably sounds exactly like what you would expect from this album had you heard nothing else other than the involvement of Banks. It’s as close as you get here to an Interpol cover song, although his work in the chorus does seem as if he tried to push himself a bit into new space, especially with the guitar work that crashes at the end, coming off a bit like a heavier version of The Killers. Of course, this song backs up to “Madrid Song” which is about as minimal of a song as you can carry on with. It’s all piano and soundbytes; it would have been nice to see the album here.
But the thing is, you could see this train coming from miles away with the blogosphere telling you of the arrival of new work from Paul Banks. Those of you who were die-hard fans of Interpol were salivating, and there are definitely moments here that shine, or rather give off a faint sparkle. Still, aside from interesting moments such as “Unwind” with the blasting horns and marching vocals, the album is fairly predictable in regards as to the direction that you would expect it to venture. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, after all, the last record was sub-par. Julian Plenti is a solid reminder that the forces of Interpol are still something to be excited about as we head into the future.