Interpol at Brixton

Not looking for Julian Assange, or rogue student protestors, but playing most of their first album and a few other choice slices of gloom…

To Brixton Academy on Tuesday night to see Interpol who are touring in support of their fourth (and eponymous) album. The evening began with a set from Anna Calvi, who I must confess I had not come across before. She (and her drummer and her multi-instrumentalist) were fantastic. Great voice and really outstanding guitar chops backed up with some pounding, kraut-ish percussion and droning harmonium. The overall effect was somewhere between Howling Bells and The Bad Seeds, in that it was relatively polished and lush, but dealt in an off-kilter musical vocabulary drawing on Ennio Morricone, Dick Dale, PJ Harvey and other more traditional dreamy dance forms. I decided to buy her album, and then found out she doesn’t have one out yet.

Anna Calvi

Next up were Surfer Blood, whose single ‘Swim’ had been on the radio rather a lot and was a bit of an (albeit shouty and dissonant) ear-worm. The sound is like a less cheesy Weezer, or maybe how Pavement would have been if they had been signed by a skate-punk label and co-opted into sounding less interesting. Which is not to say that Surfer Blood are uninteresting, but they do trade a little in dumb riffs. There’s a right place and time for that, and fortunately the rest of their output is constructed nicely to allow for such moments. Singer John Paul Pitts struts around like a portly peacock: David Morrissey’s head on Eddie Argos’ body, atop Russell Brand’s legs. Intriguing. His voice is sometimes operatic, sometimes post-hardcore screech, sometimes comical falsetto. I enjoyed them and would like to see them play again, but I’m not sure I’d rush to buy a record.

Surfer Blood

Interpol have long been a favourite band of mine. While it took me a few months to get into their first album, it is one of my all-time favourite few. Since then, each album has lost a bit in quality to (what I assume is) an attempt to move into the mainstream. While the second album was still mostly really great, the third was half-good and the new one is just okay. This decline (from lofty heights – this is not snark) was reflected in the setlist, with seven tracks from the first album punctuating the set. I was dead pleased that they played both ‘The New‘ and ‘Lief Erikson‘, two wonderful and often-overlooked tracks. Drafting in godlike genius David Pajo to play bass has been a great move: he uses a much more meaty sound than the departed Carlos Dengler and trips magisterially through the intro to ‘The New’.

David Pajo on bass

Other than the splendid ‘Lights‘, the tracks from the new album were a little anonymous; more time was wasted on the mediocre ‘Rest my Chemistry’, but on the whole it was a cracking set. ‘Mammoth‘ and ‘Not Even Jail‘ were gloriously brutal, and though ‘Say Hello to the Angels’ went decidedly pub-rock, ‘Obstacle 1’ and ‘PDA’ captured all the darkness of those first listens back in 2002. I even warmed to ‘The Lighthouse‘, as here it was perfectly deployed as a bleak and tremulous opening to the encore.

The band have lightened up considerably – there was lots more chat (though limited to the usual pleasantries, sometimes in Italian, sometimes German!) and smiles, and Paul Banks didn’t feel the need to hide his face. His voice has become electric, seemingly having acquired a new edgy mode for the higher sections where sometimes he used to wobble. And the addition of Secret Machines’ Brandon Curtis to the live group has only helped.

Interpol

One slight concern: Interpol have always been prone to making some fairly basic mistakes playing live, and their transitions between sections of songs are always a bit choppy and seem to change speed alarmingly often. While they’ve never seemed bothered by this (and nor have I, really), Sam Fogarino did seem to be tiring by the second half and was stumbling over snare hits. Still, this didn’t do anything to detract from a great night of music from a tremendous band.

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Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

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