The concept of altering one’s guise in the music industry is not a new one: David Bowie transformed his chiseled pop star image into that of Ziggy Stardust, an androgynous alien glam rock star preaching world peace before shedding his skin half a decade later into the funk infatuated Thin White Duke; Prince couldn’t decide which sex, symbol or pseudonym would represent him best throughout his career; and even The Beatles had a go at it with St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The point is, these were all identifiable and established artists at the time they metamorphosed from caterpillar to butterfly to questionable asexual-entities (The Beatles excluded); Interpol’s Paul Banks, however, is as anonymous a frontman as you can get, saying very little during performances and to the press, he’s one of a small number of artists that remains veiled behind his sonorous vocal.
This has suited his – and the band’s – apparitional status within the industry, and as a furtherance to his mysteriously moving presence, Banks’ debut solo effort in the form of Julian Plenti is of a similar ilk. Julian Plenti is… does swell with the same brooding elements that have made Interpol such a dark and compelling listen, but there is something artistically inherent and individual about the tapestry that Banks weaves throughout the 11 songs on display.
From the opening synthetic swirls of the Numan-esque ‘Only If You Run’, to the awkward electronic blips that are laden throughout the ever-adjusting pace of ‘Fun That We Had’, Banks – even if unclear in direction – is still as urgent and disturbing as ever.
Expansive and operatic at times, the likes of ‘Skyscraper’ flourish with strings that would pluck away at even the most emotionally void of us, only to be followed by the industrial rhythm of ‘Games For Days’ that builds and bursts with a rapacious hunger.
But there is a softer side to this alter ego: the pulsating piano-led detail that undulates from ‘Madrid Song’, to the steady thrum of ‘On The Esplanade’ touch on a sound and sentiment that has previously been unexplored in Banks’ creativity.
In orchestrating … Skyscraper, Banks has continued to engender that which he helped create in Interpol: a strange, incomprehensible animal, known more for its mythology and nocturnal howls than the shadowy grace that stands before us. The alter ego is intriguing yet dispensable, but what has been created in its wake is ultimately captivating and original listen.