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Album Review
...Is Skyscraper

...Is Skyscraper
by Julian Plenti


Review Date
25th September 2009
Reviewed by
Hayley Koorts

It’s definitely a good sign when you find yourself humming along to words you don’t even know yet on the first listen. The lead singer of indie troopers Interpol, Paul Banks, felt the need to gallivant down a more varied musical path and plunge into total creative freedom under the identity of his alter-ego Julian Plenti (his middle name is Julian, but beats me where the Plenti comes from). Banks successfully frees himself from the shackles of heading an already hugely successful band with a very distinct and established sound. His intoxicatingly smooth voice explores more complex and ambitious guitar arrangements, leaning towards more experimental work. He manages to craft an oxymoronic atmosphere of what I like to think of as “refined grunge”; stitching together gritty distortion and raw bottleneck guitar riffs with delicate, heart-wrenching melodies. The intricacy within his musical compositions coaxes the listener into endless hours of listening, each time peeling away one more fine layer of excellent sonic craftsmanship.

Angels pluck the opening strings of the tragically beautiful “Skyscraper”, or so it seems. I’d peg this track as the most rewarding off the whole album. It may seem slightly inaccessible upon first listen, but with patience it will weave into rhythms of your own pulse and yank down hard on those heartstrings. It soon becomes clear that a highly sophisticated musician is at work here, striving to bring us satirical and heavily textured masterpieces. With a three word chorus repeated only a few times, “Skyscraper” leaves the music to express what words fall short of.

The first release “Games for Days” is an accelerated bluesy rocker of a track, instantly meriting a chart position, and probably has the most commercial appeal. The music video is a sultry, bittersweet lover’s dig, featuring Plenti trashing a quaint motel room (and Metric’s Emily Haines turns up to lend a hand). Lo-fi radio edits blot the soundscape of several tracks, most notably “Madrid Song”, “Sky Scraper” and “On the Esplanade”. Along these veins Plenti emulates the techniques employed by other indie experimentalists, like the archetypical Radiohead and post-rockers Mogwai. Banks’ voice has endured constant – and sometimes spiteful – comparisons with that of the late Ian Curtis of legends Joy Division, perhaps because he too manages to fuse intense emotion and vulnerability with desolate melancholy. Banks himself refutes all claims of post-punk influences, instead choosing to campaign his devotion to the legacy of Hip Hop – which makes me have a “didn’t see that one coming” moment.

‘Julian Plenti’ has proven that he is an artist within his own right, and possesses a vocative ability to write songs with a soothing, slow-burning appeal. It’s the kind of record you know will only sound better the more you listen to it, unlike the fleeting pop-dance songs dominating the Top 10 in seven-day intervals. Choosing to listen to music of this quality is like investing in a timeless vintage piece over buying ten stupid fluoro headbands from Supré that will be instinct by the end of the year. You know you’ll still be able to listen to this album in five years and it’s worth will have done nothing but ferment like good wine. Then again, if satisfying your fad-hunger for the next five minutes seems like more of a priority, I hear that Cobra Starship is off the chizzle!

Listen to While: Satirically pondering the madness of the world today, wearing black and smoking a dirty cig on a bleak New York City corner.

Sounds Like: The second coming of Interpol’s greatness, haunted by Ian Curtis’s ghost and bathed in modern poetry.

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