October 2010. Ah the wonders of Internet. Join Myspace, find an interesting-sounding band is coming to chez soi, decide to have a much-needed night off.
Like quite a few of the people who haunt Le Bikini, a tiny concert hall in Toulouse, I was curious to discover a new band. The band in question was called Interpol. I’d never heard of them (insert hipster joke here).
Sooooo, wander over to their profile, listen to a few tracks from the latest album. Post-punk indie stuff. Not bad, that’s a catchy riff on Lights, let’s give them a try. Buy ticket for next week’s gig. Enjoy gig, even if the (good) sound could have been even better. On the plus side there was so much ambiance they had to turn the AC up to stop some fans (ages ranging from about 18 to definitely-a-grandad) spontaneously combusting.
Interpol aren’t exactly exuberant showmen, we’re talking hipster cool after all; although guitarist Daniel Kessler does like to bounce around a bit, risking life and limb at times on the tiny stage. He didn’t trip over anything that night, although it was a close call once or twice. Not that falling over on stage puts him off at all: he’s apparently done it a couple of times without missing a note.
The songs were enjoyable on the whole, even to someone like me who didn’t really know any of them. One or two failed to ignite the enthusiasm of the crowd; on the other hand, not once during the set did I remember that my feet were excruciatingly sore. The finishing encore was the stomping Slow Hands, which incidentally figures in the game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and is easily the closest they’ve done to a mainstream rock song. Bought the T-shirt and wore it to work the next day, just to show off.
To date, Interpol have produced 4 studio albums:
Many Interpol songs tend to be “growers”: they don’t knock you over at first hearing (although there are some very honorable exceptions), but then you find you’ve got that damn riff or chorus stuck in your head and you just have to go back and listen to it again. And again. The lyrics are most tactfully described as “oblique” although, as far as I am concerned, with that voice Paul Banks could get away with murder. Especially when he sings in Spanish.
True hipsters will argue that their debut album, usually referred to as TOTBL, is the best. I have listened to it, and my verdict is that it is like most musicians’ first albums: it sounds promising if you discover it when it first comes out, but if you listen to it after hearing their more mature work then it just doesn’t cut the ice. It was with Antics that Interpol really took off, and the album still sounds good today (among other goodies, it contains the rockin’ Slow Hands). Our Love to Admire is also a strong album, Interpol is generally considered a little less so, but still very enjoyable. I would certainly recommend investing in all of the last three.
You can watch some of their videos (warning: arty stuff) or just listen to some of the songs on YouTube for a taste of their studio sound. They rock harder live, so don’t expect to be lulled by their more laid back stuff if you go to one of their gigs.
After recording Interpol, founder-member and bassist Carlos Dengler left the band. It will be interesting to see how this affects future albums. Singer Paul Banks also has a solo career under the name of Julian Plenti.
Here’s a link to clips of three live songs posted on their official website: