Interpol still has a lot on its mind
It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since Interpol dropped its darkly dazzling debut album on an unsuspecting New York rock renaissance championing the Strokes as the new, if quickly dissipating, sound of a new century.
But Interpol’s “Turn on the Bright Lights’’ — a post-punk carpet bomb of free-floating alienation and diffuse desire — loosed upon listeners not a restless twitch but a chilly sprawl, a not-so-imaginary subterranean city spiked with silver daggers and blinding, blinking neon to match its flashing sirens and damp sense of ennui. Meanwhile, the band — standing behind a metaphorical black velvet curtain to observe its brooding Oz from a safe distance, wondered aloud in fog-cloaked missives such as “PDA’’ and “The New’’ whether that scarred world could be salvaged.
Interpol’s depiction of a profoundly isolating world not so far removed from our own realities resonated and lingered long after that album’s 2002 release date. After all, the world stage hasn’t exactly gotten to be a shiny, happy place since then, has it?
Nine years on, those preoccupations of flight and rescue, survival and salvation, and trying to navigate the towering thickets of an overcrowded city and an overtaxed mind still seem very much on Interpol’s mind. Before a packed House of Blues Saturday night — the band’s last stop on its US winter tour before it heads to Europe — singer-guitarist Paul Banks considered those dilemmas in a handful of baleful, if less gripping, songs from its latest, self-titled album.
The steely momentum of “Lights,’’ for example, built its bracing intent with every plea for resolution. “Show me your ways/ Teach me to meet my desires with some grace,’’ intoned Banks in his own deadened blare of a baritone. “Don’t turn away and leave me to plead in this hole of a place. . . . Won’t you take me away, far away.’’
On the night’s opener, “Success,’’ another new number, Banks dreamt of a long life and repeated the proclamation that he was “a good guy,’’ as if trying to convince himself of something he wasn’t quite sure about. It was a self-probing, if studied, moment of lyrical reflection that provided a modicum of insight into a band that’s always kept itself at an arch remove.
Saturday night was no different. The members of Interpol, now down to the core trio of Banks, guitarist-singer Daniel Kessler, and drummer Sam Fogarino (bassist Carlos Dengler departed last year), were gracious and engaged with their work, yet only minimally interacted with the audience. Meanwhile, the tour’s auxiliary players, bassist David Pajo and keyboardist Brandon Curtis, stood in the shadows, wordless. Ultimately, with stark stage spotlights of blinding whites and figure-shrouding reds flashing during songs like “Barricade,’’ Interpol seemed to aid and abet an irony of its own making: a deliberate cultivation of cold distance, and the construction of those very walls of division the songs seek to topple.
The night’s openers, School of Seven Bells, offered an attractively heady mix of ethereal, Cocteau Twins-esque guitar shimmer and Siouxsie and the Banshees goth-glam.
Jonathan Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.