Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How Are Things In The West Mids?

Interpol, Carling Academy, Birmingham, Monday August 20 2007.

With the autumn of 2007 nibbling at our ankles and chafing our necks, it's perhaps time for those of us with nothing more productive to do to consider who is likeliest to emerge as the finest rock band of the decade. In which case, looking further than Interpol may prove futile. Almost exactly five years on from when their debut was released in the UK, they have now released three albums unrivalled by contemporaries in terms of dark, rich musical textures and lyrical loopiness combining to compelling, addictive effect.

So unless tonight support act The Maccabees decide to arrest their chemistry, Interpol look set to handcuff themselves to destiny and leave British contenders like Arctic Monkeys looking like feeble chancers in comparison. In defence of The Maccabees your chaotic correspondent arrives late in the venue and spends time chatting to the StrangeTime ensemble and Andrew from post-rock outfit Cellar Door rather than visually checking them out, but from what we hear their best songs sound like Interpol but just not quite as good, while their other songs rarely ascend above generic post-britpop indie. In further defence, however, the crowd seem to love 'em.

And what an assembled crowd it it is. Last time your hopeful hack saw Interpol at this very same venue some three years ago it was reasonably easy to get near-ish to the stage albeit from the sides but tonight we're rammed right at the back. Further away we may be, but it has to be said that the sound quality is much improved upon from that 2004 gig when the band finally hit the stage after what seems an interminable wait.

The set, when it comes, has a fairly even spread of material across the three albums, although the bulk of material from the debut is saved for the three closing songs. It's perhaps surprising that only five tracks from the newie 'Our Love To Admire' make the setlist (There's No I In Threesome, All Fired Up and Wrecking Ball all missing the cut), but this could be explained by the fact that it's effectively a warm-up gig before the Carling Festivals shows in Reading and Leeds this upcoming weekend.

What's left, however, sounds tremendous, from the tense opener 'Pioneer To The Falls' through the ominous coda of 'Mammoth' to the now-anthemic brace of 'Antics' favourites - 'Slow Hands'; 'Evil' and 'Not Even Jail'. It's slightly disconcerting to see these troubled and troubling songs being accompanied by a stunning striplight show and greeted with terrace-style chanting and partytime handclaps, and for sure if they continue at this rate of progress Interpol are heading for the (gulp) arena circuit for too long. Perhaps that's a fate befitting the decade's best rock band, however, and there's no doubt they're a group on top of their form right now, with a sound as hard, precise and powerful as titanium thunderbolts to the heart.

The effects of the show linger on long after the lights go up, as an hour later at New Street Station a radiant redhead fan is heard to gasp that her 'knickers are still wet'. Given that they apparently reduced Kate to tears the first time she saw them, it's clear that Carlos D & Co. have developed a surefire knack for distantly stimulating feminine fluids that your befuddled blogger and other mere mortals can only dream of.

FYI: Both Chris Maher from StrangeTime and Andrew from Cellar Door went to school with the bass player from Beestung Lips! (recently signed to Southern Recordings, no doubt encouraged by our rave review of their Supersonic show). So now Papa's Got A Brand New Gig Blag, just say on the door that you were in the same class as the Beestung Lips! bassist and you too will be able to enter the possibly sinister world of the Second City's secret musical society. Our investigations into these matters to be continued...

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