It’s hard not to make Interpol comparisons on a first listen of singer/guitarist Paul Banks’ new solo album, Julian Plenti Is . . . Skyscraper but, fortunately enough, it turns out that any similarity is purely on the surface and that the record is very much a release intended to channel a side of Banks not fully explored in his main project.
Banks (or Julian Plenti) has a voice that is instantly recognizable and a guitar style that is also highly distinctive, facts that could very well have lead to an album bogged down by comparisons but, luckily, there is very little that sounds derivative here. Games for Days could have been an Interpol song written for mainstream radio but really, other than one or two other familiar sounding moments on the record, Julian Plenti is a totally different listening experience.
Certain tracks (like the string-heavy Skyscraper or the synth-on-synth of Unwind) firmly establish Paul Banks work here as firmly outside of the context we’re used to him occupying. Julian Plenti Is . . . Skyscraper is, most of all, an extremely fresh sounding album, and every song hosts a unique and highly creative flair, resulting in a tight collection of tunes that refuse to fall into anything close to repetition or homogeny.
While Julian Plenti Is . . . Skyscraper never quite reaches the transcendence of certain Interpol tracks it does something quite different (and equally enjoyable), offering relatively straightforward songs with more immediate appeal and catchier hooks. Every number seems to stand out as its own independent concept as well, revealing a wealth of musical aspirations that makes the notion of further Julian Plenty releases an exciting prospect.
Die-hard Interpol fans checking out the album may be surprised at what they find but the quality of the record should ultimately be enough to satisfy any listener. Paul Banks has firmly established himself as a fascinating and valuable musician in his own right with Julian Plenty Is . . . Skyscraper.