New York had it rough this year—what with the terrorist attacks, a new chapter of Guliani fascism and the Strokes—yet out of the wreckage crawls a record so surprising it makes you forget all about pop music's recent downward spiral. Though often accused of filching their style from more established '80s gloom rockers, Interpol's first full-length thankfully has none of Morrissey's self-indulgent yodeling, and if you're patient enough to get past singer Paul Banks' vocal resemblance to the dead guy from Joy Division, you'll be rewarded with what's easily the best album of 2002. Bright Lights traverses that dangerous road between murky despair and undeniable dance-a-bility—not an easy feat—and even manages to dodge tempting pretentious goofiness and keep their lyrics palatable. There's a luscious antagonism at work between Interpol's dark, rambling melodies and haunting instrumental interludes that waltzes you back and forth through this record like a flamboyant dance instructor. Bright Lights is beautifully solid all the way through, but the album's strong point is the song "NYC," with Banks chanting, "Sleep tight/We've got 200 couches where you can sleep tonight" with all the glorious enthusiasm of a suicidal cheerleader. If nothing else, it's time to roll up your Smiths poster and embrace the finest dark rock record to come out in years.

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