Album: Julian Plenti, Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper, (Matador)

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The Independent Culture

Solo projects fall into two broad camps. The most common is the openly flagged spin-off under the artist's real or stage name, or a close variant thereof (Frank Black, Nickel Eye). Less frequently, an artist might attempt to go completely incognito (remember Garth Brooks' "Chris Gaines" character, anyone?) until the truth eventually leaks.

Julian Plenti falls somewhere between these two camps. Paul Banks, lead singer of gloom-rock quartet Interpol ("New York's most stylish indie-rock outfit" according to Entertainment Weekly), has excised any mention of his day job from the press release accompanying this solo debut, although the mention of guest drummer Sam Fogarino is a fairly hefty hint, before you've even heard him sing a word with that distinctive baritone.

To be fair, under his alter ego (Julian is the Essex-born Banks' real middle name), the New Yorker displays a gentler, less strident side to his Interpol persona. He's always had a gift of making lyrics sound far more - or, indeed, far less - portentous than they really are. It manifests itself straight away on ...Skyscraper, whose opening track carries the refrain "You will make it, but only if you run": words which would feel a lot less existentially profound if they were spoken by a helpful railwayman as you're rushing to change platforms at East Croydon.

Conversely, "come have at us, we are strong" ("Madrid Song") sounds about as far from the come-and-have-a-go-if-you-think-you're-hard-enough spirit it conveys, admittedly somewhat archaically, when set in the context of a meditative piano lament.

Once or twice, when you hear the juddering guitars of "Games for Days" or "Fun That We Have", for example, one wonders what Banks is achieving here that couldn't be achieved within the Interpol fold. But when you hear "On the Esplanade" or the delicate finale "H", ...Skyscraper starts to make sense: the Julian Plenti project allows Banks vital space, with