Had Interpol been honest with themselves before making their second album, they would've accepted the fact that improving on the debut would be out of the question. Their prime objective, then, would be to make a different record -- not a better one. Suck it up, prepare for the inevitable "sophomore slump" darts, and get on with it. Having fielded comparison after comparison since the release of Turn on the Bright Lights, you'd think the band would've also thought to be more cautious the second time around. They weren't. Believe it or not, Antics opens with a song that resembles a defunct band more closely -- in structure, sound, and sentiment -- than anything on the debut. From the processional church organ to the sighing guitar, from the echo on the spare piano notes to the sound of the drums, from the stained-glass window to the wailing wall, "Next Exit" is a poor facsimile of Gentlemen-era Afghan Whigs (there we go again). Though the remainder of the album sounds like Interpol, and not your favorite unsung band, it's far from a favorable start -- and as Antics plays out, the album begins to form the shape of a Singles Going Unsteady, with five possible A-sides and as many apparent B-sides arranged to stream like something you'd listen to from beginning to end. The sequence runs thusly: B-side, A-side, A-side, B-side, A-side, B-side, B-side, A-side, A-side, B-side. Some of the five A-sides cast Interpol in brighter light -- a relatively upbeat one, not merely an up-tempo one. Though up-tempo songs weren't absent from Turn on the Bright Lights, they were delivered in pensive, steady waves of gloom. The up-tempo songs here aren't nearly as downcast -- even "C'mere," in which Paul Banks sings, "The trouble is that you're in love with someone else," turns out to be more charming than self-pitying. Another development is the presence of some taut dance rhythms -- touring has made them a better, more flexible band, especially within the interplay between bassist Carlos Dengler and drummer Sam Fogarino. To the band's credit, the weaker songs aren't necessarily eating space for no reason -- their B-material here is more affecting than the average indie band's A-material. The problem is that, during those lesser moments, the band shows signs of attempting to cannibalize Turn on the Bright Lights' magnetic sulking, and their hearts don't seem to be as in it. The truth, as alluded to above, is that they will never make a record as special as the debut. However, following it with one that is merely very good is no crime.