Monday, August 18, 2008

The Appeal of Interpol

It's funny how things can change. Years ago, when I still lived in San Diego,I had a coworker who had common tastes in music to me (i.e. postpunk and new wave music). We would talk about music and how much it meant to both of us. He as a musician himself, and me as a person who had learned a musical instrument and was an avid fan of music. He made a couple of cds of bands he thought I would like, one of which was Interpol's first CD, Turn on the Bright Lights. I thought it was good and atmospheric, with excellent guitar riffs, but a little repetitive and I didn't listen to it much. At that point, I was underwhelmed.

Years later, after I had moved back to Texas, I was at work, listening to the Flashback Alternatives internet station, and they played a song called "Take You on a Cruise." I recognized Interpol because they just have a very signature sound. I loved the song, and frankly I couldn't get it out of my head. I went to and looked up their CDs, discovering that it was on their second CD "Antics." I then made a note to buy it. Well, one Saturday after doing relief work, I went to Best Buy and bought it for $9.99. I couldn't even wait until I got home to listen to it. I started playing it in the car, skipping to that song that had so captivated me. I was hooked. It was official. I was now a bonafide Interpol fan.

"Antics" has some really good music throughout, but the standout tracks were, of course, "Take You on a Cruise," "Narc," and "C'Mere." Let me tell you, I probably have "Take You on a Cruise" and "Narc" on at least sixteen different mix cds, and on every computer I own, as well as both media players. "Take You on a Cruise" has to be my favorite song ever. If I could get away with playing it at my wedding, I would definitely try. This song broke the barrier between myself and merely seeing Interpol as a good band with great guitar music, and turned me into a life long fan. And I am not alone in my admiration. There is a piano cover and a string quartet cover on You Tube. Both are excellent, by the way.

Let me just say that what they do with guitars is an art. That was one thing that impressed me from the beginning, the way they managed to make the blending of guitars into a symphony. I was always more of a piano, therefore keyboard, and percussion girl (hence my love of New Wave music), until bands like Interpol introduced me to the art of guitars. When I realized that bands that play in this style are part of the postpunk genre, I rapidly became a fan of this musical movement. Although I do like some bands that use the electric guitar in a rocky style, such as Journey and Def Leppard, I have never been the heavy metal, hard rock kind of girl, and I guess I associated guitars with this kind of music. But the guitar is a complex instrument that can be used to various ends. Interpol really seem to understand the art of the guitar.

The next thing that draws me to Interpol is their interesting, complex, introspective songs. For instance, they are lyrically rich, and have a mystique that makes you wonder what they were thinking about when the songs were written.

Lastly, Paul Banks' voice also calls to me. What can I say? I really like the monotone, post-punk, new wave way of singing. I am throwback to the 80s in that sense. Although I am sure his voice probably doesn't appeal to some people (my mother for one), I find his singing very seductive and beautiful, a perfect match for the music. He seems to know the exact right way to sing to accompany the music, and for maximum effect of the lyrics.

"Our Love to Admire," Interpol's newest CD, definitely cemented my love of the band. Although "Antics" will always have a special place in my heart because of the gems of "Take You on a Cruise" and "Narc," I must say that "Our Love to Admire" has more songs that I love, such as "All Fired Up," "The Pace is the Trick," "The Heimlich Maneuver," "No I in Threesome," "The Score," and "Pioneer to the Falls." Each song demonstrates the musical diversity and complexity of the band, without compromising their signature sound. And I must say I definitely love the addition of keyboards to their musical sound (did I mention earlier that the piano is my favorite?) I can definitely say that although some bands definitely have been inspired by Interpol (such as Bloc Party), no band has the unique sound of Interpol. Case in point, I can tell that it's an Interpol song, just a few notes into the song, when I hear a song playing.

I must say that this band has won me over in many ways. Even in their live performances, they have a uniqueness that comes through. I like to watch the bandmembers play, and it's funny how they manage to be pretty mellow and almost stargazing, but also transmit so much personality and frank enjoyment of being musicians and playing for an audience. They are pretty snazzy dressers, typically wearing suits or nice shirts with ties. Very much a nod to their new-wave/postpunk sensibilities. Carlos Dengler, the bass player, is especially interesting to watch because he has such personality. Sometimes he does splits with his legs while he plays, and sometimes he just walks around, casually playing with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. Daniel Kessler, who plays the guitar, is so low key, and so gentlemanly, always wearing a suit, and calmly playing his guitar as though he doesn't have a care in the world. And the drummer, Sam Fogarino, doesn't mind being stuck in the back, playing his skins, at all. And Paul Banks, the lead singer and guitarist, well, let's just say I have a major crush on him. :) He is very sexy in the way he sings, with his low-key, mysterious, and almost shy personality, that comes alive when he starts a song. I watched a performance of "The Heimlich Manuever", and it was droolworthy the way he kept the audience waiting anxiously, and then, in a move full of what seemed to me akin to sexual prowess, broke out in the first line: "How are things on the West Coast?"
It is a joy to see that they are fulfilled. That's all you can hope for in anyone who is pursuing a career of interest. In the interviews I have watched, they seem to view their music very seriously. There is no indication that this is just a lark to meet girls and get famous. They look at themselves as artists who are very committed to the creative process. As an artist, I definitely admire this and appreciate this about them.
It's interesting how large their following with so little airplay. Only one of the singles from "Our Love to Admire," "The Heimlich Maneuver," charted on American charts. Yet, their CD sold at least 500,000 copies. Go figure. I think it's word of mouth and the strength of their live performances. To be honest, I'm glad they are a bit off the popular radar. I think it gives them distinction, as long as they are doing well financially and critically.

I find myself hanging out on You Tube, watching their performances over and over again, and kicking myself for missing the opportunity to see them perform live in Austin last year. Next time, I won't miss out on this chance to see a band that has become one of my alltime favorites live. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself when I do get to see them live.


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