Today, 17 years ago, Interpol released their debut album, Turn On the Bright Lights.
How great is the album, Pitchfork rated it almost perfect: 9.5/10. It also holds a score of 81 out of 100 from the aggregate site Metacritic based on 21 reviews, indicating “universal acclaim”. Contemporary reviews of the album often noted Interpol’s influences and drew comparisons to several other acts.
Eric Carr of Pitchfork praised Turn On the Bright Lights as “one of the most strikingly passionate records I’ve heard this year.” NME’s Victoria Segal called Joy Division comparisons “obvious and unmistakable, airbourne in the ashen atmospherics,” while praising Interpol’s take on the “grey-skinned British past”. “It’s almost as if Ian Curtis never hanged himself,” began Blender’s review, with critic Jonah Weiner adding that Paul Banks’ vocals channeled Curtis’ “gloomy moan.” While Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone wrote that their “sleek, melancholy sound is a thing of glacial beauty”.
That same year, Turn On the Bright Lights featured on several publications’ lists of the best albums of 2002, including those of Pitchfork, who named it the year’s best album. NME, who ranked it at number 10, and Stylus Magazine, who ranked it at number 5.
Hailed as a seminal album of the 2000s, Turn On the Bright Lights has been cited as an influence on many indie rock bands, including the Killers, Editors, the xx, and others to the extent that many of these bands have been disparagingly referred to as “Interpol clones”. Closely associated with 9/11-era New York City, the album has been seen as helping define 2000s indie rock.
Summing up the album’s impact in a review of its 2012 re-issue, Matt LeMay of Pitchfork wrote: “Suggesting that this album is simply a product of its time and place is no less naive than suggesting that anyone who has ever been in love could easily write, arrange and record an amazing love song. There were a lot of good bands in New York in 2002, but only one band made this record.”