Saturday, December 18, 2004


Interpol/Secret Machines, Birmingham Carling Academy, Thursday December 16.

As going on the internet impersonating Creepy Lesbo is the latest fastest-growing online trend, we will be making our own modest contribution to this meme by reviewing the Interpol gig in the rambling, sex-obsessed, self-deprecating style (whotchamean, no change there, then?) of our stalking sapphic heroine. Amusingly (?) adopting this style recalls my many letters home to girls during my college years. Ladies, hasn't my swearing improved?

Creepy marked this effort as 4/10 and apparently I must do better by inserting a greater number of masturbation euphemisms and adding copious references to frottage and rabbit-petting.

In another reminder of the fact that under the influence of alcohol, Dead Kenny's brain operates entirely in the present tense and as such is fully occupied with thoughts of drooling lechery at attractive members of the opposite sex; bouncing up and down to loud rock music and looking for opportunities to take a pee, I feel I must refer you to Ssh...You Know Who for a more detailed review of this particular concert. Ben manages to give you something approaching a setlist, as well as a few technical observations, all pretty impressive for someone who didn't appear to be in possession of a notebook from what I can remember. Maybe my mind was once that organised but I just can't remember?

And so, two (count 'em) hangovers between then and now, I will try to give you a brief summary of my own fractured recollections of said event. Before the gig, Ben and myself met up with The Cable Guy (tall, with the amiable faze-free air of Dylan from The Magic Roundabout, and the 17th best mini-golf player in the UK) and his girlfriend (Natalie Portman from Leon all grown up) for a quick pint before entering the venue to find that Secret Machines were on earlier than anticipated. I can report, however, that their last three or four songs sounded pretty good, climaxing in a rousing rendition of 'Sad and Lonely'. According to my close friend and confidante General Hubbub, the band won quite a few new friends that night, who will be following their future career with keen, kohl-shaded eyes.

Despite what seemed to be an enormous number of people in the venue (certainly in comparison to recent shows by The Polyphonic Spree and Amy Winehouse) getting served at the bar was so ridiculously easy it was almost enough to make you giggle (although, of course, being a jaded fortysomething I refrained from such undignified behaviour). Either the Academy have sorted out their staff rotas better, or all those PJ Harvey fans back in September were a thirsty, alcoholic bunch. With there being such an amount of free space at the bar, and me being the worst kind of old soak, I bullied poor Phill into having another beer with the sort of boggle-eyed belligerence that causes casual acquaintances to avoid eye contact whenever ale is around to be easily consumed. If in twenty years time, Phill is found red-faced and cursing incoherently from the confines of a cardboard box round the back of Corporation Street, it'll all be my fault, but of course I'll be scattered ashes over the gardens of the Shrewsbury Crem by then, so I'll be free of the guilt at last.

Anyway, enough digression (you can tell I've not got much on this afternoon, can't you?), as I feel I ought to at least make an attempt at constructively reviewing Interpol. Now, you can argue with my assertion that they're the best new rock band in at least ten and quite possibly as much as the last twenty years, but you'd be quite wrong and I wouldn't really want you to embarrass yourselves in the (semi)public domain. Whereas when Interpol first came onto the scene, many hacks had lots of fun playing 'spot-the-influences' on debut album Turn On The Bright Lights, two years on they all just sound like 'Interpol songs' to me, as distinctive and irreducible a sound as any of the all-time greats. The smouldering brilliance of second album Antics now gives them a track record to lay a genuine claim to have transcended many of their antecedents and peers (The Guardian, for one, can fuck right off with their 'Sad Strokes' sobriquet) . The portentous opening song from that album, 'Next Exit', kicks off proceedings here too, its striking splendour just about distracting the audience from Paul Banks's ridiculous hat that makes him look like Van Morrison's less bellicose younger brother.

We got reasonably close to the stage, but at the far end from Carlos (looking as haughtily camp as ever in a black waistcoat) and so the bass didn't seem quite high enough in the mix for the full rumbling resonance we know from the records. Somebody throws a record at Daniel Kessler (maybe with all his gurning they thought he was a zombie from Shaun Of The Dead and were aiming for his head?) which he autographs and throws back out (presumably wasn't Love Over Gold, then). I'll be straight out honest, I couldn't see the drummer from where I was.

The set seemed quite heavily loaded with songs from the first record, so I was quite surprised to learn from Ben that his on-the-spot ready-reckoner calculated 80% of the songs from the new album were indeed performed. What was the music like? It was Interpol, fer fuck's sake, they were brilliant, now stop bothering me, I've only got six shopping days left to complete my haul of discount beer! But if you must have specifics, my favourite moments from the set were a robust 'Not Even Jail' from the newie and 'PDA' from the debut whereupon Daniel and Carlos appear to be contemplating having sex with each other during the beatific climax.

One of the pleasant side effects of the show clashing with Kings Of Leon at the Civic was all the KoL fans boarding the train at Wolverhampton, including two Shrewsbury stunners who sat opposite me, much to the good General Hubbub's murmured approval, dressed in matching grey military jackets. Discarding my natural reticence in engaging conversation with complete strangers on public transport, I politely enquired as to whether they were Libertines fans. Why yes, they replied, how did you guess? (Erm...) Given that they were two very attractive girls, sisters indeed, one fair the other brunette, seemingly unattached, KoL fans and doing a pretty impressive simulation of being interested in my ringing endorsement of the latest Black Keys record, I decided to believe them when they said they bought their military jackets long before Pete Doherty did (or at least, this fact was less important to me than it was to them).

Indeed, bearing in mind their love of the Followill clan, I was just getting ready to enquire as to whether they fancied loaning me their toothbrush and bartending my party, when the familiar sight of Telford Central loomed on the horizon and it was my time to get off (or not, as the case was). Still, no doubt their response would have been as convincing as my argument that the fat old bloke sleeping on the train smelling like he was pickled in a vat of his own pee was in fact more rock 'n' roll than the rest of the train carriage put together. Well, you've got to stick up for your mates, haven't you, and General Hubbub's had a hard life, I can tell you (and so will he, if he should ever need the price of a cuppa tea next time he sees you in New Street cafe).

I don't know, at this rate, I'm not going to have this season's must-have Kings Of Leon accessory, the pustulous limited edition STD, in time for Xmas...

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