Second Spin: Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights

The Second Spin series aims to convince you to give music a chance. You should never listen to an album just once, and we’ve learned that the hard way. There is probably a whole host of albums that should, by rights, be my absolute favourite – I’ve just either never listened to them or not given them the time of day. Albums are for life, you dig?

I still remember the specifics. The year was 2002, and I was a mere 14 years old. It was a miserable Sunday afternoon, and I was sitting in the car with my mother and brother in a busy Co-op car park just outside of Castle Donington. It was raining, and we were just preparing to make the short journey home after taking my Grandmother back home earlier in the day. After whatever conversation or argument we were having settled down, my brother reached into his bag and passed a CD through the gap in the seats — ‘Here, put this on Isaac’. I gave the iconic red and black cover a quick scan. Interpol. Turn on the Bright Lights. I shrugged and slid it into the player, then we sat in silence for a while, listening intently as we drove. I absolutely hated it.

Interpol via The Guardian

It became a bit of a joke. I used to say things like ‘more boring than that Interpol record’ and ‘turn off the bright lights’, which were probably only funny to me. Despite having a solid upbringing with regards to music — The Cure, Neil Young, Talking Heads et al — I just couldn’t grasp what was so special about Interpol. Paul Banks’ dreary vocals and the plodding nature of the first few tracks were unlike anything I’d heard before, but rather than take my time to soak in this new sonic experience, I took the easy way out and ridiculed it. Relentlessly. For years.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I returned to the album, a move which was triggered by stumbling across a list of accolades that the record had earned over the years. Pitchfork Album of 2002. Rolling Stone #59 Album of the Decade. NME Top Albums of the 00s. The list went on and on. It couldn’t be. I had to do a double take, but it was the same album that I’d pushed aside all those years ago. This was one of the most revered post-punk albums in modern history, and given my tastes had become vastly more eclectic after freeing myself from the shackles of mainstream radio, I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to give it another shot. I plugged in my headphones.

Turn on the Bright Lights. I shrugged and slid it into the player, then we sat in silence for a while, listening intently as we drove. I absolutely hated it.

What I found was nothing short of a treasure chest of musical beauty. I found melody, consideration and unforgettable bass riffs where before I’d found monotony and self-importance. I found emotive, powerful vocals and incredible drum beats. I found brilliant songwriting. I played it again and found new layers. And again. My first reaction to this new discovery was actually anger, truth be told. I’d missed out on a brilliant record for half a decade by being overly quick to judge and so sure in my uneducated convictions. I guess you could say I was young and stupid. Since that day I’ve probably played the album through 150+ times.

The purpose of this article isn’t to retrospectively review the album in detail, but merely to highlight my own stupidity. If you’re young and reading this, I urge you to always give new music a chance, even if it’s a style or genre you’re not accustomed to. You never know what you might learn to love. If you’re older and wiser, like I hope I am, then I’m sure you’ve made the same mistake as me at some point in your musical journey. All I know now is that Turn on the Bright Lights is one of my all time favourite records, and I owe my brother an apology.


Isaac Powell
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Isaac Powell

Isaac is Editor-in-Chief of Noted, and prefers his music loud and steaks rare. Lives and writes in Nottingham, England.
Isaac Powell
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