As Interpol’s front man, Paul Banks has largely been a cipher; while certainly not lacking in charisma, his sardonic manner and dry sense of humour often polarised and confounded listeners and critics alike.
Banks’ first solo album found him assuming the alter ego of Julian Plenti, but he’s now jettisoned this for Banks, credited to Paul Banks (as was its preceding EP). Whereas 2009’s Julian Plenti Is…Skyscraper album was culled largely from songs pre-dating Interpol, Banks is a vivid documentation of Banks in the here and now, and may be his most personal work to date. “Yeah, I suppose I wanted to simplify things this time around,” he explains. “Julian Plenti was something that I had to do, but once it was done, I didn't need to hold on to it. I'm just making music and hoping to let it speak for itself.”
He delivers some of his most disarming and heartfelt lyrics to date with opener ‘The Base’, far removed from his often detached anomie with Interpol, “Now and then I can see the truth above the lies/Now and then, oh, I feel those beauties this life belies”. The writing of Banks proved to be a cathartic process, “I do think that in some sense there are more direct lyrics on this album, and there is some purging and venting happening. I suppose it was therapeutic,” says Banks.
The idealistic and wistful ‘Young Again’ stands out, kicking off with a transfixing guitar line before blooming into a dense, orchestrated chorus, “The lyrics depict an adolescent mind-set. Crazy absolutes that I used to feel when I was a teenager - ‘jobs are disgraceful’ - and as the lyrics came to me, I was revelling in feeling that headspace again. And in another way, it was kind of an epiphany of ‘Wait a second, right now I truly give zero fucks what anyone has to say about me. I'm like Bender from The Breakfast Club’ which was how I felt when I was 18. That headspace doesn't last. But it felt good for those ten minutes when I was writing the song, and when I sing it, it always feels good.”
‘Paid For That’, is Banks’ “Rage song”, recalling Folk Implosion’s ‘Natural One’, who are actually name-checked in the lyrics. “I referenced Folk Implosion because it's honest. I almost took that name-check out because of fear of people harping on it. But I left it in for the kids growing up today, and for the kid in me”, says Banks. “One song by The Boo Radleys, ‘Upon 9th and Fairchild,’ influenced me more than any band or genre that is ever mentioned in relation to my work. Shit, so did ‘Babe I'm Gonna Leave You’ or ‘Nights in White Satin’ or ‘Riders on the Storm’. But I'm tired of caring what people think I actually consider an influence. I haven't made much of an effort to be clever here. Just to be honest about my mood and perhaps to confess a little.