"Favourite seconds" – fan moments

This is a thread from the Interpol message board entitled “My favourite seconds of a song”, where fans showcase the parts of Interpol songs which they find most inspiring. I’ve decided to take some of these sections as springboards for my analysis.

Hands Away 1:42 – 2:02

“Homespun desperation’s knowing/Inside your cover’s always blown”
This section just sums up all of TOTBL to me. When I hear this bit, it takes me right back to the first time I listened to the whole album in one go. I think it’s a combination of the production, Paul’s little axiom, and how incredibly classy and subtle Sam has always been – even in the earliest days.

Thinking about and examining this moment actually made me appreciate this song in a way that I hadn’t before. Always just classifying “Hands Away” as atmospheric, I’d never taken the time to really listen to it, and ask myself what I felt and thought while doing so.

– Like with most favorite moments in music, much of our predilection for that moment is contingent upon what comes before and after it. The songs begins with a very sparse texture (guitar only), and Paul enters with typically cryptic lyrics and sounds fairly close-by to the listener (please note that I always refer to Paul’s lyrics as if they are portraying characters, thereby acknowledging his repeated statements that his lyrics aren’t necessarily and indeed are rarely meant to be listened to as autobiographical). The drums enter at 0:31, with Sam hitting the kick-drum on every beat (fairly unusual), and therefore providing the song with a sense of urgency and somewhat resembling a heartbeat, which makes me a little uneasy (like that moment in 2001 when Kubrick forces you to listen to the astronaut’s breathing for what feels like an age). To me, this drum pattern sounds as if it triggers Paul’s next entrance in 0:35, in which he moans and asks “what happened?” thereby giving us a window into the desperation of the character. Shortly thereafter the second guitar and the keys enter, and from 0:47-1:41 the voice is absent while the instruments repeat and build in texture (and therefore, to my ears, in suspense).

– At 1:42 (the beginning of this particular favorite moment), the voice reenters, but is now much farther away, and seems to be now more of a narrator as opposed to a first-person character. It’s as if Paul’s character needed to pull away from the listener (and perhaps the band itself) for this confession. Seven seconds after the voice leaves the song for good, Carlos enters, filling out the bottom-end of the texture for the first time. His entrance gives me a sense of fortification—the vocals have just confessed desperation, but the bass comes in shortly thereafter to provide a foundation; I could also, however, hear the bass entrance as confirmation: the bass telling the vocals, your confession is truth, and my entrance attests to its integrity. From about 2:09-2:37 the bass remains with the song, and the string synths repeat a dramatic, almost ecstatic rising figure. After this, the bass falls away again and the texture thins out; at 2:49 the kick-drum “heartbeat” stops, and the song ends much as it began 15 seconds later.

– I can see what this fan means about this moment summing up TOTBL for them. I’d always had the vague impression that, of Interpol’s three albums, this one felt the coldest, rawest, and most depressing (all of which I assure you attracts me all the more to the album). Beyond being in a minor key, this song, with its desperation-focused lyrics, general lack of bass, and heartbeat-imitating drum pattern, pulls at my heartstrings towards a fairly dark and raw place (a place I found myself when I first moved to NYC, no less), which is perhaps why I had avoided really listening to it for all these years.

I look forward to digging into more of these entries very soon!

Until then,
Much love from,


~ by megwilhoite on February 23, 2008.

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