Sigmund Fraud’s Sunday Album Reviews #1: Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)

Welcome to the first installment of Sigmund Fraud’s Sunday Album Reviews! In this weekly series I’ll share my opinions on some of my favorite albums, and hopefully this will act as a nice way to pass the time until my show returns next fall. I’ll give an overview of my thoughts on the album, followed by a ranking out of 10 and my favorite and least favorite tracks. Enjoy!

The post-punk revival provided a breath of fresh air in the creatively bankrupt realm of alternative music in the 2000s. This crossover between the art school sensibilities of post-punk and the rawness of garage rock created a familiar-yet-new sound. While critics constantly point to The Strokes’ Is This It? as the most influential album of the era, another New York band lays claim to producing the movement’s magnum opus. On Turn on the Bright Lights, Interpol crafts a hazy, melancholic, and cerebral take on post-punk with a greater emotional depth than many bands reach in their lifetime. Interpol’s focus on a deeper exploration of post-punk’s interplay between melody and emotion is makes this album stand out from many of the band’s contemporaries.

Opening track “Untitled” may be my least favorite song on the album, but by no means is it a bad song. It gives the listener the perfect idea of what to expect from the album, with the jangly guitars and Ian Curtis-esque vocals setting the stage perfectly for what’s to come. The wistful nostalgia of “Obstacle 1” infuses a dark undercurrent into a song which sounds like a drunken night in Manhattan — it sounds like how the world feels to someone in their early 20s, combining fascination with ennui. “PDA” feels like a continuation of the ideas introduced in “Obstacle 1”, and it sounds like the point in a night out with friends where that crush you’ve been ignoring becomes the only thing your intoxicated mind can focus on. If “Obstacle 1” is drunken bar-hopping, the dark reprise of “Obstacle 2” is when you leave for a cigarette in a desperate attempt to get your mind off of the anxiety you feel. The latter half of the album continues in this more introspective vein, with “Roland” and “The New” serving as two of the greatest moments of Joy Division and Bauhaus worship ever put to record. Album closer “Leif Erickson” feels like sobering up on the taxi ride home, where you can finally gain clarity on your feelings but closure still eludes you.

This album is necessary for anyone who loves the sounds of 80s alternative, or for those who love other indie bands of the early 2000s. The band embodies the essence of “less is more” — they utilize sparse instrumentation to create soundscapes so lush and dreamy that you would’ve never guessed there were only four members of the band. Interpol plays Joy Division to The Strokes’ New Order, and Turn on the Bright Lights stands as one of the finest albums to come out of the early 2000’s indie scene.

  • Rating: 9.3/10
  • Favorite Track(s): “Obstacle 1”, “PDA”, “Roland”, “The New”
  • Least Favorite Track: “Untitled”

Let me know which album you’d like me to review next! Power, Corruption, & Lies with DJ Sigmund Fraud returns to WMCN Fall 2023!

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