By Rob Harvilla
Interpol is either the suavest or the goofiest-lookin’ great band of the past decade. Possibly both. The immaculate suits, the pimp hats, the insouciant smoking… it’s all very Purple Rain. And for those of you who monitor such things, it would appear Carlos D. has entered his Father Guido Sarducci phase. Righteous ’stache, dawg. He looks like a Clue character. Distant royalty. Sir Dingleberry of Worcestershire. Are those bottles of water on the bass amp, or cologne?
I’m stalling because this “secret” show was both excellent and nondescript—only three new songs, perhaps a bit thornier and more gothic, a Concrete Blonde sort of vampiric menace that served set opener “Pioneer to the Falls” well. Paul Banks was in splendid voice (the best article ever written about his particular talents can be found here), hammering out the last verse a cappella amid a thicket of lustily hooting ladies. His talent for turning cliché into shellshocked profundity (“You fly straight into my heart” is his new come-on) is remarkable. Apparently Our Love to Admire, out in early July, has a song called “No I in Threesome.” Sold.
Band is killer live. Just a monster. The rhythm section is pure liquid evil—jittery and complicated but never overbearing, pulling “Narc” from one of the band’s prettiest choruses to a brief, quiet goth reggae breakdown of a (superior) sort than the Police will spend the summer awkwardly shoehorning into every one of their hits under the auspices of “updating” them. (“Roxanne” will soon be suffering far greater indignities than she ever encountered on the streets.) Tunes from Antics, a bit samey and listless on record, tended to be highlights here, particularly “Not Even Jail” (building to a crescendo more hostile than these ordinarily restrained dudes ordinarily allow) and the nifty guitar duels of “Take You on a Cruise.” The crowd freaked out for “Slow Hands,” which the alt-rock station in San Francisco flogged endlessly back in ’04; new single “The Heinrich Maneuver,” though clever and appreciably bitter, lacks a bit of the oomph and catchiness required for such devotion.
How the fuck do you not play “NYC” at this show, incidentally? Gas face. It’s still Interpol’s finest hour by miles, their opulent boredom and masterful nonchalance briefly channeled into something more romantic and transcendent—when the drums kick in at 2:07 you just wanna die, the finest, sharpest cheese money can buy, the ultimate shoegazer ballad. Antics, though serviceable, had no such moment. Will we merely admire Admire in similar fashion? The suits still fit, and the knotty, elegant, vaguely lurid tunes still dazzle—we just need a few more moments when we’re too overwhelmed to be merely impressed, when they look so good they wanna kiss themselves.