By Michael Endelman
Updated October 01, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Interpol: Peter Pakvis/Redferns/Retna

If anyone is still caught up in the great NYC rock debate of ’03 — who’s más cool, the Strokes or Interpol? — Antics ends the argument like a swift chop to Julian Casablancas’ head. Interpol’s debut, 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights, was an impeccably arranged post-punk mope-scape that ended up selling more than 300,000 copies and kick-starting the alt-rock renaissance. This follow-up mines similar terrain — angst-ridden Gothic blues — though there are enough new wrinkles in the quartet’s tailored suits to keep things from getting too redundant. Early-’80s British new wave is still the main reference point, but the Joy Division comparisons seem unfair this time around, if not wholly misplaced. After all, lead singer Paul Banks has cut down on his adenoidal moaning (Benadryl, perhaps?), and he brings a surprisingly uplifting tunefulness to the band’s spiky rhythms and swelling drones, from the stomping four-on-the-floor single ”Slow Hands” to the even better ”Evil,” a beery sing-along about, well, something or other that someone named Rosemary did. Narrative clarity isn’t exactly Interpol’s strength — ”Subway she is a porno” was the most memorable line from their last CD. But among the free-associated lyrics about hurting hearts and, literally, ships in the night (”Take You on a Cruise”) is a band that’s just begun to excavate the crevices of their cold, dark souls.