Saturday, August 21, 2010
Better Than: Spending comparable bucks on a trendier flavor of the week.
Interpol's latest tour, which ended last night at the Fillmore Miami Beach, was slightly awkwardly scheduled. Originally, at about this time of year, the band was meant to be opening for U2. But Bono's back surgery put the kibosh on that entire outing. Instead, the New York indie-scene grads decided to hit the road anyways, with themselves headlining -- but with no new album to support quite yet.
The band's fourth, curiously self-titled disc is due out on September 7 on Matador, but it seems, at least by audience reaction, that only the most hardcore bit-torrenters have scored it yet. This meant, overall, an polite reception to the new songs, sure. But the biggest cheers were reserved not even for material from the band's previous album, 2007's Our Love to Admire, but mainly for even earlier songs.
In fact, Interpol must have felt similarly about their back catalog. Besides four new selections from the forthcoming record, only one song came from the 2007 disc, four from 2002's Turn on the Bright Lights, and the other six all from 2004's Antics.
Actually, the one song from Our Love to Admire was announced by frontman Paul Banks thusly: "This one gets some inspiration from Miami, for sure." No surprise, it was the white-night ballad "Rest My Chemistry," which boasts a verse that begins, "I live my life over cocaine/Just a rage and three kinds of yes."
A geographically appropriate song choice though this was, it was disappointing that this was the only song aired out from that album. Sure, the disc spawned no singles as popular for dance clubs as did Antics, but its slower, slightly more cerebral material remains pretty underrated.
Oh, and a word about new bassist, the legendary Dave Pajo of Slint. His playing is flawless, he dutifully wears a suit, and his place in the indie-god pantheon is untouchable. Still, from a longtime fan ... the departed erstwhile bassist Carlos D.'s stage presence is missed.
In any event, comparing Interpol to Joy Division is so very early '00s, yes, but here is one way in which those bands are similar: Both sound controlled on record, but live, the music is a different beast. Interpol's recordings are glove-tight, stringently paced, not a note dangling for a moment too long. Last night, though, there was a new heft and a surge in energy on much of the material, especially the older songs -- they have to keep them interesting somehow, right?
"Evil," for example, came sixth in the set and quickly ramped up the energy of the show, with Banks and guitarist Daniel Kessler speeding and loudening up the song more than expected. This only served to whip the crowd into an instant frenzy, one which would carry the rest of the evening's momentum.
This marked the first big grin from the usually somber Banks. Yes, the band's lyrics remain, often, depressed and love-starved. (A sample from the new record's "Lights," which came about halfway through the show: "Don't turn away/ And leave me to plead in this hole of a place.") Still, the surprisingly loud, raw, trebly power of the band's live onslaught keeps the experience bracing, rather than maudlin, and Banks seemed more and more connected as the show went on.
The older songs are aging well, too. Interpol was always one of the best of the wave of post-punk-whatever bands from the earlier part of the last decade, and its sound is still singular. They still ride on a delicious tension of narratives that are both lusty and sex-starved. "Touch your thighs, I'm the lonely one" is still a song-opening line (for "Narc") that thrills.
For all that wading in the forlorn, though, by the end Banks himself was cheesing, as they say. Perhaps it's thanks to the feminine powers of someone named something like Crystal Bush, a "lovely lady" to whom he dedicated the new song "Try It On."
But really, most of it seemed thanks to the crowd. Fans' adoring shrieks appeared to propel the band through the older hits. That even went for "Slow Hands," an encore selection the band must otherwise be sick to death of playing, but, last night, zipped along as though it were new.
Personal Bias: I've been following Interpol since the band's debut, and they would have to do something seriously wrong for me to give them a bad review. That said, again, I miss seeing Carlos D. onstage.
The Crowd: Mostly mid- to late-20s/early-30s folks in dark colors who had probably been following the band since the beginning, sprinkled with the subcultural random outliers who make every Miami crowd special.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Interpol -- fucking AMAZING! WOO! I'd get arrested for Interpol! I'm going to sit here with a sign that says, 'Free high fives and hugs ... for Interpol!.... Oh, shit, I'm drunk."
Random Notebook Dump: For about half of Twin Tigers' set, I was trapped behind a 6'6" guy who flailed as though every song was the last he'd ever hear.
Interpol Set List:
-"Success" (new song)
-"Say Hello to the Angels"
-"Summer Well" (new song)
-"Rest My Chemistry"
-"Lights" (new song)
-"Take You on a Cruise"
-"Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down"
-"Try It On" (new song)
-"Not Even Jail"