Paul Banks - Banks

There’s something dream-like about everything Banks puts out as a solo artist.

Label: Matador

Rating: 8

Paul Banks is certainly a busy man. If he’s not touring with Interpol, he’s writing material under his Julian Plenti moniker, working with American rapper El-P and now he’s releasing a record under his given name. It’s always hard to listen to any of his output without the grand expectations of Interpol hanging over it, but as soon as opening track ‘The Base’ begins, all attempted comparisons are almost forgotten. There’s something dream-like about everything Banks puts out as a solo artist. It may not always have the grandeur of Interpol, but it’s a lot more intricate than anything he’s done with them. ‘Banks’ is a welcome change of pace from Paul Banks’ Julian Plenti release - it’s self assured and confident, and unlike on ‘Julian Plenti is… Skyscraper’, ‘Banks’ showcases his voice perfectly.

‘Young Again’ throws ‘Banks’ off track a little with its slightly muddy guitars breaking away sparsely and erratically during the verses. It’s the least inventive song on the record and with its repetitive chorus and lost vocals, it almost seems like an afterthought. Thankfully, ‘Lisbon’ attempts to get the album back on track with its neat, crisp opening and wonderful instrumentals. It builds up and then falls away again to be left with the crisp, lonely guitar again. When half the intrigue with Paul Banks is his ever changing voice, it’s refreshing to hear such a well crafted instrumental track.

‘Paid For That’ harks back to his Interpol days with a strong drum line and strong vocals. It’s the track most reminiscent of them on the record. The record swings from straight forward tracks, to slightly more experimental tracks like ‘Another Chance’, beginning with dialogue while strings swell underneath. After his time away from Interpol, it seems that Banks is keen to experiment more with complicated, intricate instrumental lines. At times, because there are so many of them here the lyrics can be a little lost, but it makes the record even more enjoyable to listen to the second time over as you’re always discovering something new to love and explore.

Closing track, ‘Summertime Is Coming’ that we heard on ‘Julian Plenti Lives… EP’ is another highlight. Straight away it’s catchy, and the intricate instrumentals are replaced with driving, simple guitars topped off with Paul Banks‘ strong vocals. There’s something satisfying about having the highlights of the album at the start and finish, if not frustrating at times as you wish the brilliance of ‘The Base‘ could be repeated throughout the record. It’s a strong album and shows once and for all that Paul Banks doesn’t need Interpol, Interpol needs him.