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Album Review

Julian Plenti, 'Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper'

August 3, 2009

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Indie Rock
Julian Plenti Julian Plenti Is... Skyscraper
Matador
ESSENTIAL “No Chance Survival’’

There’s an awful lot of facade shrouding “Julian Plenti Is . . . Skyscraper,’’ starting with the artist’s name. Julian Plenti is actually Paul Banks, frontman for Interpol, the gloom-and-doom indie rockers whose last album (2007’s “Our Love to Admire’’) left too much to be desired. How refreshing, then, that Banks’s debut solo outing is a leap forward - and notably away - from his band’s rigid blueprint that hinges on cold calculation and angular rhythm. His new album is far looser, sometimes meandering, but it’s good to see Banks stretching out since he’s rarely been able to do that in Interpol. There are occasional flashes of Interpol’s tried-and-true formula (“Games for Days,’’ “Only If You Run’’), but those were expected. More surprising are the sullen explorations of Banks’s mental anguish heard on the mostly acoustic dirge “On the Esplanade’’ and the piano ballad “Madrid Song.’’ “Skyscraper’’ is a particular work of beauty: a downbeat art song drenched in heavy strings and snippets of found sound, punctuated by the blunt thud of kick drums and Banks’s flat declaration of “shake me, shake me, skyscraper’’ looped over and over. Like so much of this portentous album, it’s straightforward and yet oddly elusive, too. (Out tomorrow) -- JAMES REED