This Week: What We Learned About Interpol, FX, Joaquin Phoenix, and More

  • Publish Date: September 9, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 9 user comments

Interpol is getting worse

It might be time to turn off those bright lights. Both critic reviews and (for the most part) user grades have declined for each subsequent album released by indie rockers Interpol after their heralded 2002 debut. That trend makes their self-titled fourth album, released this week, their lowest-scoring album to date, with even worse reviews than their tepid major label debut Our Love To Admire. A return to indie label Matador didn't help Interpol return to the acclaim of their earlier work; just slightly over half of the 18 critics reviewing Interpol so far have given the album a positive review. It might be unfair to ask the band for another TOTBL, but even another Antics seems to be out of Interpol's reach these days. Or is it that critics are the ones being unfair, holding all subsequent albums against the impossibly high standard set by the debut? Some of our users seem to think so (the user score has been trending upward), and perhaps the new album will prove to be a grower; right now, however, many critics simply find a glaring lack of memorable tunes.

Albums by Interpol
Year Album Metascore   Users  
2002 Turn On The Bright Lights 81 bar 9.5 bar
2004 Antics 80 bar 9.0 bar
2007 Our Love To Admire 70 bar 8.1 bar
2010 Interpol 67 bar 8.6 bar

FX is still special

The strong critical reception this week for the Ted Griffin- and Shawn Ryan-produced detective dramedy Terriers (which plays almost like an updated version of Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, without all the mumbling) continues an impressive run for the cable network FX. Over the past five years, only three of the network's new series have failed to earn positive reviews from critics; that's a success rate of 75%, with an average Metascore of 65. Is that good? By comparison, during the same five-year period, the average score for HBO's new series was 61, with 60% of new HBO shows receiving positive reviews from critics.

And the scores for FX's first-year programs (listed below) don't tell the complete story, as several of the network's shows seem to get better as they progress. (Though we don't have the data to back it, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a good example; that long-running program seems to win over even more fans each season, and it returns September 16 for its sixth season.) Take Sons of Anarchy, one of the lower-scoring "good" shows listed below. While its first season didn't blow anyone away, Anarchy's second season earned an impressive 86, while also showing up on numerous critic top ten lists for the year. This week saw the premiere of Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy, and critics were nearly as effusive, giving the show an 84. And the network will attempt to continue its winning streak early next year with the boxing drama Lights Out, which is already the recipient of positive buzz.

Scores for First-Year Series Debuting on FX, 2006-2010 (Newest to Oldest)
Year Show Metascore   Users  
2010 Terriers 76 bar tbd  
2010 Louie 70 bar 8.9 bar
2010 Justified 81 bar 9.4 bar
2010 Archer 78 bar 9.2 bar
2009 The League 54 bar tbd  
2008 Testees 37 bar 7.6 bar
2008 Sons of Anarchy 68 bar 9.2 bar
2007 Damages 75 bar 8.4 bar
2007 The Riches 69 bar 8.7 bar
2007 Dirt 40 bar 7.3 bar
2006 Thief 71 bar 9.3 bar
2006 Black. White. 62 bar 6.4 bar

Joaquin Phoenix might just be crazy enough to be interesting

ImageHere today

In late 2008, Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) "retired" from acting to pursue a new career as a hip-hop musician and beard aficionado; the year that followed was memorable mainly for a disastrous concert performance in Las Vegas and a bizarre appearance on David Letterman's show. Was it all an Andy Kaufman-esque put-on, or was Phoenix a legit self-indulgent weirdo? Though it doesn't answer that question definitively, the new documentary -- or "documentary" -- I'm Still Here 65 (directed by Phoenix's brother-in-law, Casey Affleck) thoroughly chronicles the actor's lost year, and many critics were impressed by the film, though the reviews run the gamut from glowing (Time Out New York's 100) to terrible (Chicago Tribune's 0). As of Thursday evening, over 70% of the reviews are positive.

Although they weren't entirely sure when they were watching Joaquin Phoenix, and when they were watching "Joaquin Phoenix" (likely, it was a bit of both), most critics admired not just the comedic aspects of Phoenix's odd behavior, but also the film's brutally honest portrayal of a celebrity's breakdown thanks to a potent combination of ego, drugs, and dementia. Or, at least, its facsimile of a brutally honest portrayal of such. The few reviewers who hated the film found the actor's behavior insufferable, and weren't captivated by yet another portrayal of a celebrity meltdown; in fact, they were so infuriated by the film that they couldn't care less whether or not Phoenix was faking.

Looking for a better documentary about "artists" where you cannot be fully sure about the veracity of what you are being shown? Try this year's Exit Through the Gift Shop 85.

Mercury Music Prize voters sometimes get it right

This week, the acclaimed debut album from the London-based band The xx was selected from a field of a dozen shortlisted nominees as the recipient of 2010's Mercury Prize. The award is given out annually to the best album from the U.K. or Ireland, as chosen by a group of journalists, musicians, and music executives. While the award is considered prestigious -- and can boost album sales for the winner (The xx's debut is already shooting up the UK charts this week) -- the nomination process can be controversial, with oddball selections popping up in the shortlists most years.

It would seem, however, that the panelists made the right choice this year. xx was one of the past year's highest-scoring albums on Metacritic, and appeared on many critics' year-end top ten lists. In fact, of the 12 shortlisted nominees, the album by The xx received the most favorable reviews from professional critics. The last time that the Mercury Prize went to the shortlisted nominee with the highest Metascore was 2005, and it has happened four times in the past decade, as you can see in the chart below, which indicates where the winning album's Metascore ranks among all nominated albums that year.

Comparison of Mercury Prize-Winning Albums, 2001-2010
Year Winning Album / Artist Metascore   Rank*
2010 xx by The xx 86 bar 1
2009 Speech Therapy by Speech Debelle 77 bar 3
High score among nominees that year: Primary Colours 82 by The Horrors
2008 The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow 82 bar 4
High score among nominees that year: Untrue 90 by Burial
2007 Myths of the Near Future by Klaxons 71 bar 6
High score among nominees that year: Favourite Worst Nightmare 82 by Arctic Monkeys
2006 Whatever People Say I Am, That's ... by Arctic Monkeys 82 bar 2
High score among nominees that year: Cole's Corner 85 by Richard Hawley
2005 I Am a Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons 88 bar t. 1 **
2004 Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand 87 bar 2
High score among nominees that year: A Grand Don't Come For Free 91 by The Streets
2003 Boy in Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal 92 bar 1
2002 A Little Deeper by Ms. Dynamite 80 bar 4
High score among nominees that year: Original Pirate Material 90 by The Streets
2001 Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea by PJ Harvey 88 bar 1

* Metascore rank among all shortlisted albums that year. Note that a few of the shortlisted albums from the past decade (typically, those never released in the U.S.) are not in our database and thus do not have Metascores.
** In 2005, the winning album tied for the high score with: Arular 88 by M.I.A.

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Comments (9)

  • A.C.  

    No I understand, just in comparison to past Interpol albums, most of this feels like the weaker moments of Our Love to Admire. By catchy, I mean something that I'd want to listen to again. I understand the aesthetic, it's just too morose for me for Interpol (and I like darker music). So to me, I don't get how people call this their best album when compared against Turn on the Bright Lights, there's nothing as magical as "the new." Then again, over time it could gain a cult appreciation, not at the level as say Joy Division's Closer, but in the same vein as something taken as an piece of art that you don't want to necessarily revisit everyday.

  • Rurp  

    A.C., I think /you're/ delusional if you think Roberto isn't entitled to his own opinion. Just because his taste is obviously different to yours doesn't mean he's "delusional". Likewise with his comparison to The Suburbs. I also think that The Suburbs is a much better album, but that's just my opinion. Neither mine, nor his is objectively correct, as they are, merely, opinions based on our entirely subjective tastes in music.

  • Roberto  

    "Theres nothing catchy or fun here to listen to." Well, youre quite right here. But does music always have to be catchy and fun? ... Maybe you havent listened to the album enough or maybe its just not your thing. Bad, even average, it is not.

  • A.C.  

    Roberto I think you're delusional if you think this new album is better than Turn on the Bright Lights. There's hardly anything to grab you here, and many of the songs feel like a chore to get through. You can really tell that Carlos D wasn't really into the band anymore when they recorded this, the bass work just doesn't stand out like it used to. There's nothing catchy or fun to listen to here. For the record, this doesn't compare to the Suburbs.

  • Roberto  

    I almost find comical to read "Interpol is getting worse" when the band releases its most cohesive, complex and haunting album yet, IMO even better than this years hiper-ultra-hyped "The Suburbs". Definitely going to be more appreciated with time, and Metascore will definitely get higher.

  • Mart  

    Interpol lost it after Antics - I was hoping that they still had it in them to reach the dizzy heights of TOTBL - but alas.. it wasn't possible.

  • conditionals  

    Reviewers/users firmly think that a band's first album is their best and constantly base complaints and comparisons around that argument? What is this, the INTERNET?

  • Alex  

    I don't think critics are able to give multiple listens to albums nowadays, I don't know why. The 4th self-titled album is a grower, making each listen more important than the last. Of course, there won't be a second Turn On the Bright Lights that many love. Interpol isn't trying to do that. Instead, they created a concept album with atmospheric and dark sounds that is Interpol. Critics are giving mixed reviews because they don't give it time to grow.

  • Mitch Tough  

    Yes, Interpol had two good albums in them. And FX is stellar. Sons of Anarchy & It's Always Sunny are my two favorite shows on TV (next, maybe, to Fringe)

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