Paul Banks Banks

Paul Banks – Banks (Matador)

Banks is Interpol‘s Paul Banks’s second solo LP, yet his debut under his own name (the first being under the jazzy Julian Plenti moniker), which infers obviously that this is where we get a glimpse of the ‘man behind the enigma’.

With his day job having released their momentarily brilliant, eponymous 4th album in 2010, he evidently has enough money in the Banks to be able to Banks on a solo venture now and again, keeping Interpol in his back pocket as a wee Banker for when things get tight. Sorry.

It’s depressing to report though, that Banks is like like Interpol with one, nay, two, hands tied behind its back. Banks’s rich, Curtis-esque croon still comforts and defines the record, for better or worse – although here it occasionally drowns, maybe deliberately, into the sloopy, dracula-wave melodies around him. However, sadly more notably, it lacks the crunch and theatrical menace provided by his other enterprise, mainly Sam Fogarino’s drumming and Daniel Kessler’s precise, sterile guitar-playing.

2009’s Julian Plenti is… Skyscraper isn’t as immediately guilty of this, as it’s a more enjoyable listen overall, having a more distinct sound and more confidently going in different directions. Although Banks is always going to have to work hard not to let his voice typecast any music he makes away from his first band, it makes it far easier to do this if he isn’t basically singing the same songs and using the same instruments as the latter, just without the same musicianship.

Opener The Base, and Arise, Arise slumber, jangles and creates orchestral suspense like Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead, and are all the better for it. I’ll Sue You strides along like a neutred bonus track from Our Love to Admire, with the usual, signature Paul Banks-gibberish-metaphors that don’t quite make sense, yet sort of do when you shut your eyes.

The spoken-word interludes throughout are typically more off-putting than in-keeping with whats going on around them musically, aside from the semi-instrumental storm of Another Chance, all Trisha-like, sixth year Psychology cliches – “sometimes people fuck up! and then you need to give them another chance! so that they can change! and become a better person! …THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY BRAIN!!” – which actually work in context on this occasion.

But, despite moments of payoff, it’s more often than not a hard slog. Young Again is full of annoying platitude (“I’m young again, I feel young again!”) and empty bombast. The crushing No Mistakes could be heard 100 times and you’d still have trouble convincingly humming it if asked.

It sounds too much like Interpol to be a massive departure, but not enough like Interpol or, more importantly, like a Paul Banks record (it’s still hard to say what that sounds like, and it’s tempting to say Julian Plenti is the closest we’ve got to hearing what Paul Banks wants to say), to truly immerse yourself in. In Arise, Arise, as lovely as the song is, Banks notes: “Here we go, it’s all happening!”, which is surely having a laugh.

The same with standout closer “Summertime is Coming”, which, despite the acute awareness that comparing the singer’s solo record with his band thousands of times bestows immediate accusations of laziness upon the writer, really couldn’t sound more like Interpol if it tried. The song contains that magic formula, where the musical powerhouse sounds at once gloomy, euphoric, meloncholic yet resolutely upbeat. It’s confusing why you would choose to end your solo record like that, leaving people ready to turn on Turn on the Bright Lights. Sadly, this is no faint praise in a record with so little genuine payoff. In terms of bank, Banks is less Wall Street, more Interpol-themed Monopoly.

[Rating:3]

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