A Fine Mess EP

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an unrepentant Interpol afficionado – but like any good lover, I am demanding of the object of my affections. So, what to make of this five-song offering of tracks from the Marauder sessions? Read on…

For those unfamiliar with the New York City trio’s previous release, Marauder (August 2018) was viewed as a break from Interpol’s tradition of meticulously crafted offerings. Recorded straight-off-the-floor with Dave Fridman (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Weezer, the Delgados, Sleater-Kinney, MGMT, and so; also, he was a founding member of Mercury Rev), it sounds more like Interpol’s live shows, but for many, sacrificed the poignant surgical precision and nuance that are the band’s forte.

Frontman Paul Banks has stated that this EP is a companion piece to Marauder, meant to stand on its own merits – yet it comprises cuts that didn’t quite make it to the band’s sixth full-length offering. In some cases that reason is obvious – certain tracks end rather unceremoniously, others don’t fit well with Marauder’s overall mood, and others still feel more like musical-thought experiments.

A Fine Mess’ – largely distorted, shouty vocals that echo early Interpol, but with more confidence and ability. The distortion is thankfully reduced for the chorus, to reveal the winningly accusatory and affectionate line “you’re always shattered.” Daniel Kessler’s slinky, vaguely kinky guitar line is the song’s backbone, while expansive synth touches add depth to what would otherwise but a straight-up rock tune. For such a balling track, it’s a shame that the bass guitar is buried in the mix. Must be hella fun to play – no wonder it’s snuck onto set lists of late. A stand-out.

‘No Big Deal’ – a subtle song that contrasts the title track, and really gels after the first chorus, all with that trademark Interpol bittersweet tinge. Lyrically, I could definitely do without part of the chorus (“From the beach to the strip club, I bet..” c’mon Paul, strip club? It’s clichéd.), but they do tighten up in the last stanza, and feel like a kiss of disillusion. The music matches the mood of intrepitude, and Sam Fogarino’s drums are absolutely perfect for the song.

‘Real life’ – kicks off with surfy, staccato guitars and heavy reverb on Banks’ voice, but Fogarino’s driving drums provide the song with direction. This track feels more refined and finished than the other tracks here, to the point where it’s easy to see how this could have fit on Marauder (Banks even noted that this was one of Marauder’s first potentials). Poetic, contemplative, elusive lyrics – classic Banks. However, the pace feels a bit off towards the end of the song, which in my opinion mars it somewhat; I would have preferred a slow, swirling spin out. Definitely a sleeper but a keeper.

‘The Weekend’ – Overall, a radio-friendly tune that will likely appeal to the band’s more casual fans –but might annoy those who like this NYC trio to be more… substantive. It legitimately feels upbeat and contented without being irritating. During the chorus vocals seem a bit strained, or perhaps awkward prosody is to blame. Musically, the chorus is quite expansive and flows. But just as you’re settling into this very catchy track it comes to an abrupt end. Perhaps it’s something of a potential gateway song to lure new fans into the fold.

‘Thrones’ – This is another track that would have fit seamlessly on Marauder: vintage Interpol, with signature Kessler guitar work and the band’s introspective down-vibe. The vocal harmony on “We stay inside, ’cause we believe we are surrounded” is gorgeous. The pace is less frenetic and more measured; Fogarino’s tumbling drum rolls and well-placed egg-shakers marry with Kessler’s iconic and icy guitar work and Bank’s confessional lyrics. Though I love ‘A Fine Mess,’ ‘Thrones’ is the one carved into my heart.

All in all, A Fine Mess is a purchase that makes sense for fans and completists, but likely won’t be a huge hit with casual fans (does Interpol even have those, though?) As with Marauder, I found the production to be a bit of miss-match to Interpol’s sound – muddying it instead of revelling in their ability to craft nuance and urgency. Yet, both Marauder and A Fine Mess EP are interesting additions to the Interpol canon.