Not long ago, indie rockers seemed more intent on redrawing the dark shadows of Mancunian post-punk than seeking Vitamin D highs from African music, but things move fast in the ’00s. Julian Plenti is Interpol singer-guitarist Paul Banks, a well-dressed dude who spearheaded an armada of other well-dressed dudes with Ian Curtis’ ghost on the brain. Interpol did it best up to a point, and Banks’ first full-length as Plenti—a pseudonym he put aside as Interpol began to make moves in 2001—is a collection of songs that might’ve been born in his main band’s margins. It’s a frustrating outing that wavers quietly between uninspired and surprisingly vibrant, middling and fantastic.
While the opener, “Only If You Run,” enjoys a lot of the languid, low-end coloring that made Interpol’s early work so great, it still sounds like Interpol. The same can be said for the palm-muted chug of “Fun That We Have,” a vaguely industrial jam that boasts guitar tones more stale than serrated. But removed from its usual framework, Banks’ voice pops. The bent strings of “Girl On The Sporting News” recalls the nightshade folk-isms of Califone, and the bathroom fingerpicking of “On The Esplanade” is haunting in its own right. “Unwind” finds Banks at his most separatist, in an orchestral-pop celebration replete with horn hooks, synth choirs, and confetti showers. He’d be hard-pressed to sound more refreshing.