Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper
‘Julian Plenti’ is the new alias of Interpol frontman Paul Banks, a baritone who’s prone to wearing sunglasses indoors. He tinkered with the persona in New York nightclubs a decade back, before the advent of his bill-paying, arena-filling main act.
Frankly, when you read up on the 31-year-old’s bio you expect a little more than the forced monotone and misery of Interpol. Banks attended private school in Spain and Mexico before studying literature at NYU. The more cosmopolitan Skyscraper captures Banks’s playful side with a lecherous alter ego and loose songwriting. Those used to Banks pumping his songs full of gray mud and frowns might crack up at the sleazy, slinking ‘Girl On The Sporting News.’
Fortunately, that loony tune comes on the back end of an album that beans expectations with a series of curveballs. Punchy numbers such as ‘Only If You Run’ and ‘Games For Days’ stay nearest to Banks’s established career path, adding electronic flourishes and a cobbled-together-on-a-laptop vibe to moody, anthemic rock. But it’s the mellower moments that make this a captivating listen – one that grows to be more rewarding than Banks’s day job. Piano and upright bass delicately pluck under snippets of elephants, documentary interviews, horns, prayers and cinema strings on ‘Madrid Song’ and ‘On the Esplanade’.
It adds up to a fabulous journey through the curiosity-filled mansion of a globe-trotting playboy (Banks sports leather loafers sans socks on the cover), but for the first time the buttoned-up, brooding singer sounds as if he has a sense of humour and a sex drive.
A few weeks back at New York’s Siren Music Festival, Japandroids’ wide-eyed guitarist, Brian King, marvelled that he’d never seen such a crowd (it wasn’t even very large) or so much space to roam around on stage. His band’s setup allows for plenty of room: the only other member is drummer and co-vocalist David Prowse (not he of Darth Vader fame, sadly). But the duo’s self-described garage rock is anything but sparse. On their debut full-length, Post-Nothing, these two young Canadians fill an eight-song, 37-minute disc with nearly enough power-chord metal, fuzzy punk and angst-ridden sentiment to make us forget that America’s teenage population has been musically represented by the likes of Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz for nearly a decade.
The emergence of Japandroids – along with No Age, Wavves, Titus Andronicus, Abe Vigoda and others – suggests that gritty music filled with heartfelt affirmations might soon find its way into the poster-clad bedrooms of high-schoolers for the first time since Nirvana’s reign. On searing anthems like ‘Young Hearts Spark Fire’ the duo speaks for adolescent boys everywhere – and many older ‘boys’ too – screaming, ‘I don’t wanna worry about dying/I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls.’ Much of Post-Nothing contains loud, seemingly angry music, but King and Prowse’s lyrics aren’t malicious. Even on the album’s closer, ‘I Quit Girls’, the sentiment is simple: ‘After her/I quit girls.’ We know the feeling.
Colin St. John