Music

Paul Banks' Mediocre Mixtape

The rumors are true, unfortunately.

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When I heard last week about an upcoming Paul Banks hip hop mixtape I thought it was nothing more than a rumor.  n the early days of Interpol it was Banks who was seemingly most keen on cultivating his own legend. His style as frontman involved speaking at an absolute minimum during interviews and avoiding the direct address of the audience at all times. If he enjoyed being in a successful band perhaps it could be inferred by the occasional cigarette break during the break down to crowd-pleaser “PDA,” or through the rare grin between changing guitars. More recently, with Interpol's enduring critical and commercial success, and with the departure of the group's most flamboyant member, bassist Carlos D, Banks seemed to be making a genuine effort towards bearing his own persona publicly. Two solo records into his own career he's shed the Julian Plenti moniker, opting instead for his Christian name. On stage he can be seen wearing attire other than his trademark black suit and tie. Banks even has an active Twitter account where he engages in frequent Q&A sessions with fans. Despite this reinvention of sorts, nothing could have convinced me that the man who had once been so plagued by Ian Curtis comparisons might in fact release a mix tape.

Reading through past interviews the evidence becomes a bit more compelling. Banks is quite adamant that his love for “the hip-hop,” as he affectionately puts it, is sincere. There are numerous assurances, all Google-searchable, that he listens to rap more than anything else. Even the drumming on his solo records is hip-hop influenced, if at times a bit rigid. Taking all evidence into account, I imagined that a mix tape titled Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed To Be was to be the consummation of this love affair, a dark sonic cruise through streets lined with raunchy drums and slick melodies. But the number of glaring issues one runs into after a few listens will deeply challenge the patience of even the most rabid Paul Banks fan. At 21 tracks the release is bloated. You have to get through four tracks of lame movie samples, arbitrary live drumming, and lazy melodies before hearing something that even approaches a fully-formed track. Talib Kweli's verses are the only selling point on “What's In the Box”, however the production behind it is so crudely-defined that it has far more in common with any number of anonymous lo-fi tracks available on Sound Cloud.

Aside from “Quite Enough,” which features El-P, and a reprise of “What's In the Box” (with Mike G), there is not enough on the album to even call it a mix tape. In lieu of laying down any rhymes himself, Banks opted instead to include demos of tracks that later turned up on his second solo record, Banks. These demos don't do Everybody... any favors. “Denmark(Fetch)” is the only track which seems to have gone through a proper mixing process; its individual drum and guitar stems do eventually merely into a pulsing if overly simplistic beat. Sonically, what seems to work best on the album is “Music From Club Scene-Burma." Clocking in at fifty seconds, its weird carnival sample and house beat provide the only singular and cohesive moment on the album. When compared with the exquisite self-arrangements of Julian Plenti is... Skyscraper it is stunning that Everybody... was released in the first place. That the album was allegedly in the works for nine months is even more of a shock. The mixtape is currently featured on DatPiff as a free download. If Banks is reading the comments on the site, perhaps he might take solace in knowing that more than a few users are interested in furthering his promo and distribution game.

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