red lights

NYC's Stylish Sonic Sensations

Chicago, IL
Jan. 12, 2003

Story and Photos by Andy Argyrakis

Remember in the late '70s and early '80s when bands were either those super cool, swanky underground rockers concerned equally with musical atmosphere and attitude or they were commercially viable popsters disgusting to those with even a shred of musical intelligence and taste? Actually, those retro days of the past aren't all that different from the present predicament of the music industry, where you're either making scrupulous, veracity filled music on the mainstream fringe or you're selling out in favor of mass appeal and watered down musical expressions.
Interpol Enter Interpol, the latest rock and roll based quartet to be hatched out of New York, who not only represent a modern day example of a hard working, respect worthy underground band, but are also are revitalizing all that was hip and hallowing from their retro past. No, they're not following the vintage garage rock cues from fellow statesmen The Strokes, The Money Suzuki, or The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Instead, Interpol is focusing on the Brit pop/punk era that birthed the likes of Joy Division and The Smiths and its subsequent cultivation of folks like The Psychedelic Furs. At a recent Metro show promoting their full length debut Turn On the Bright Lights, the foursome (comprised of singer/guitarist Paul Banks, bassist Carlos Dengler, guitarist Daniel Kessler, and drummer Sam Fogarino) combined style and sophistication with sassy songwriting and sonic sensations reminiscent of the abovementioned acts.
All the members took the stage dressed in suits and ties, confirming that class not only resonates from their recordings, but also through their on stage demeanors. There was no ruckus reeking havoc, unnecessary jumping up and down, or contrived patronizing of the crowd on Interpol's part, as they simply let an outpouring of genuine energy seep through their dozen song set. Throughout those cuts, Banks' voice was filled with seditious scruff, often complimenting a series of grinding guitars, creaking cacophony, and pleading percussion. Such elements were first alluded to during "Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down" and "Hands Free," followed by Interpol's full settlement into such descriptions during "NYC" (which distinctly paid homage to the Furs). "Obstacle 1" and the new record's hidden track "Specialist" followed, both resounding with controlled cushiness and matching melodrama that would have made Morrissey and his Smiths partner Johnny Marr proud. "PDA" furthered their meticulous preservation efforts of such muses, except the band wasn't content to just let the tune lean in preference to the past. A combination of ringing guitar blasts, spiking drumbeats, and Banks' heightened vocal delivery brought contemporary inclinations to that finale track before a pair of enticing encores.
Rest assured that I'm not simply jumping on the press' cheerleading bandwagon to remain fashionable in the eyes of my peers and trust me when I suggest keeping an eye on Interpol this year. We need more groups like them to remind us of the past world where quality compositions came from, while at the same time proving they are still fathomable despite the bleak musical climate that exists circa 2003.

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