It’s almost too easy to say that A Fine Mess is a fine mess. The new Interpol LP is a collection of songs that didn’t make the cut on Marauder, the band’s 2018 album, but it doesn’t sound like a mismatched hodgepodge. Rather, it has the cavalier flow of any Interpol release. It doesn’t top the New York band’s discography, but fans will surely enjoy the extra material, and casual alt-rock listeners will likely find themselves bobbing their heads to a single or two.
The title track is the EP’s best moment. In fact, it’s a mystery why it wasn’t included on Marauder—it’s a flawless love song in the Interpol tradition, meaning that only the refrain—“You and me make a fine mess”—gives the gist away. The verses are mysterious—why does lead singer Paul Banks claim, “My life is procreation?” Why does he bring Abel Tesfaye into his story with the apparent non sequitur “Holla at The Weeknd for me”? While it’s never clear, it’s consistently entertaining. Banks’s vocals are as slick as ever, moving between intensity and laid-back swagger. When he repeats, “Deep breath, deep breath,” you can picture the danger in the distance. The instrumentation is on point, too: throughout the song, a guitar riff creates a gritty vibe, while the chorus features a bassline that Entertainment-era Gang of Four would be proud of. A slow-motion outro brings the track from great to stellar.
“No Big Deal,” in the spirit of its name, doesn’t quite reach the same heights. There’s nothing wrong with it, but after the fun and frantic “A Fine Mess,” it seems a bit tepid. The pre-chorus sets the listener up for an interesting tale—“From the beach to the strip club,” Banks sings—but the chorus itself fails to fulfill that promise; its lyrics are ambiguous in a way that’s less than exciting.
“Real Life,” the EP’s third track, is a return to form. In an interview with London in Stereo, Banks said that Interpol has played it live, considering it “ready for the stage.” He also noted that it was “probably the first song we wrote for this record,” but was ultimately cut from the album because it “wasn’t necessarily an integral song relative to the others.” It’s easy to imagine how the song would have fared in concert—the driving percussion would surely rouse crowds in a club. “With my bloody nose, I have fixed to savagery and showbiz” is one of the album’s best zingers.
“The Weekend” (not “The Weeknd”), the next track, is upbeat and triumphant, as a weekend should be. Many Interpol songs are full of angst and urgency; this isn’t one of them. “Heaven knows the week was bombin’/But by the weekend you were here/Asleep in my arms/And the future looked like nowhere I’ve seen,” Banks narrates, painting a picture of romantic tranquility. When he sings “That really happened,” starry-eyed simplicity shining through his voice, it’s impossible not to share in his happiness.
“Thrones” is a solid last track. The song begins with a punch of gritty guitars; then Banks spins visions of grandeur and guilt. The imagery is haunting; somehow, Interpol can make “Falling ashes at my feet” and “Babe daydreaming on a screen” sound equally foreboding.
All in all, A Fine Mess is a welcome addition to Interpol’s discography. If you’re looking for some new alt rock to jam to this summer, it’s worth the 17 minutes.