By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
As strategic moves and stabs at credibility, these maneuvers were pointless. Her career wasn‘t sinking because we wanted a more credible or a more mature Britney -- if there’s one thing we Americans can agree upon, it‘s the universality of supple breasts and thinly veiled soft porn. Problem was, there was no substance behind the spandex. Her lifelong aspirations toward fame -- honed by years on The Mickey Mouse Club -- provided Spears a personality. But there was no person, just a vessel, raised to actualize her parents’ affection for shows like Star Search and American Idol. Britney is JonBenet Ramsey, grown up and made good. Or maybe she‘s just the new Cher.
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Observing that Spears and the public had a falling-out when she tried her hand at credible music is not to say that credible music can’t be effectively counterfeited. The music of the current ”rock renaissance“ has been great -- and rarely original. The punk of the White Stripes nods to Led Zeppelin and older blues traditions. The urbane ennui of the Strokes originated in the ‘60s and ’70s with the Velvet Underground and Television. The attitude of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs draws from New York‘s No Wave circa 1980. The Hives distill the Stones’ garage-rock howl. Contemporary rock‘s most likely breakouts, Australia’s the Vines, revisit a style of more recent vintage: Nirvanaesque grunge rock circa ‘92.
Which brings us to the well-dressed men of Interpol, who have accented their new-wave noir look with a damn fine record, the just-released Turn on the Bright Lights. Weirdly enough, Interpol are the least original of their peers. It’s a total Joy Division rip-off: The stark yet funky percussion so precise it could be keyed to a click track, the slashing guitars, the hopscotching yelp of Ian Curtis clone Paul Banks. The match isn‘t exact: Interpol have a mellower take on Joy Division’s sound, a little more catchy, a lot less dire. Where Ian Curtis sang that love will tear us apart, Interpol‘s romantic dysfunction isn’t that worrisome. When Banks sings on ”PDA,“ ”You‘re so cute when you’re frustrated,“ it‘s like he’s taunting Curtis for his constant torment.
One can imagine Curtis and Banks running into each other in the back of a smoky bar. Curtis confides to Banks, ”She turned around and took me by the hand and said, ‘I’ve lost control again.‘“ Curtis weeps. Banks replies, ”You’re the only person who‘s completely certain that there’s nothing here to be into,“ and explains to Curtis why he should have toured America instead of hanging himself: ”Chicks dig rock musicians. The groupies could have cheered you up.“
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Passionate rock songs by cute and depressed white guys are nothing new. And, really, Interpol are more pop than rock: They take on the work of a powerful predecessor and weave in sheen and sex and emotion. Indeed, Interpol will probably prove to be less influential than their influences and less memorable than Britney. All the same, they‘re more engaging than teen-pop, and a hell of a lot easier to listen to than Joy Division.
Meanwhile, here’s a buying guide: Turn on the Bright Lights is much better than A Rush of Blood to the Head. Who knows why? It‘s a matter of attraction and love and the human heart. You can’t figure that out. But you can write songs about it.