El Pintor

Interpol, Live at the Crystal Ballroom

Interpol hit the Crystal Ballroom last night feeling a bit rejuvenated.  Their latest album, El Pintor, was released last week to the best reviews that the band had received in a while (including our own rave, published on Tuesday), and they seemed eager to build on that momentum.  As the band geared up for a full-fledged fall tour in support of the album, a lot of the press from the early shows emphasized the prevalence of the band’s early material in their sets.  While many of the highlights of their beloved first two albums were performed last night, Interpol didn’t shy away from performing new material, sprinkling the set with several cuts from El Pintor.

Black and White helps hide some of the flaws of my photography

Black and White helps hide some of the flaws of my photography

Whereas before it often seemed that the band struggled to maintain an effortless cool in their performance–I have a distinct memory of their last Crystal Ballroom performance, which came during the Antics tour, where Paul would smoke and rest his still-burning cigarette on his guitar’s headstock while he played–last night the band was focused and intent on nailing their performance.  Daniel Kessler has always been a sparkplug and in his own little world with his various nifty dance-steps (though the Crystal’s stage put a damper on some of that footwork), but last night Sam Fogarino was locked in with a blistering performance, displaying a great ability to shake off the crowd’s enthusiastic-but-off-beat clapping.  Most significantly, Paul Banks was in a cheerful mood and seemed especially engaged, and it came through with one of the best performances of his that I’ve seen.

A glimpse of the stage show

A glimpse of the stage show

The stage show was fairly simple, alternating between green- and red-focused light setups and a simple backdrop, alternately displaying the hands of the El Pintor cover with the occasional abstract visualization.  The focuse was on the songs, and though the curse of the poor acoustics of the Crystal reared its head once again (Sam’s hi-hat and other auxiliary percussion were poorly mic’d, the keyboards were always buried, and Paul’s guitar spent most of the night turned down too low), it was still a riveting set.  After opening with “My Blue Supreme” from the new album, Interpol revved the crowd up with the one-two Antics combo “Evil” and “C’Mere”, with the latter surprisingly getting the bigger roar from the Portland crowd.  From then on it was an even mix between new material and early stuff, with the crowd going nuts for Turn on the Bright Lights‘s “Say Hello to the Angels”.  Our Love to Admire and Interpol only got one track apiece, with “The Lighthouse” being the surprise pick for the former and “Lights” leading off the encore for the latter.  It seems clear that the band is distancing itself from those albums (with Dan and Sam remarking how they barely remember how to play the songs from OLTA in a recent interview), but the band is not heading to the nostalgia circuit any time soon.  The new material was met with a rapturous response for the most part, an amazing feat considering the album was released just last week.

Interpol in a familiar red setting

Interpol in a familiar red setting

The future is bright once again for Interpol, and hopefully the band continues to make the most of its “comeback”.

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Review: Interpol – El Pintor

For the first time in Interpol’s career, we can honestly say that their newest album is better than their previous work.  While we argued last week that Interpol’s “decline” was not nearly as sharp as some may contend, the band still had issues matching the success of their previous works.  The band reached its nadir with Interpol, an album that while striving to push their music into new directions suffered from a clear lack of inspiration, with many songs seemingly the aural manifestation of creative gears spinning without any tangible result.  After some time off, the band has regrouped and seemingly found its mojo once again, as for the first time since Antics Interpol seems to be having at least a bit of fun making music again.

The title El Pintor goes beyond being simply an example of clever wordplay by being an anagram of the band’s name and previous album, but also serves as a signal of the creative reshuffling that went on behind the scenes.  Even dipping into Spanish was a nice touch, considering how the previous album ended with “The Undoing” and its verse in Spanish, providing an additional connective tissue with this creative reinvention.  There were some interesting superficial touches (the cover art adds a bit of blue to the traditional red-and-black Interpol color scheme, the band published a lyric booklet for the first time with the album) that mirrored some of the internal structural changes the band underwent in recording the album.  With Carlos D’s departure once Interpol was completed, the band decided that instead of searching for a new bassist that they’d power through as a three-piece, with Paul Banks laying down the bass in the studio (for the record, the band hired a touring bassist, so we won’t be seeing Paul trying to figure out how to play old songs on the bass and sing at the same time).  Considering the importance of bass to the Interpol sound, fans were rightly concerned; the good news is that Banks proves himself a more than capable replacement on El Pintor.  There aren’t any show-stopping riffs like in “Obstacle 1” or “The New”, but Banks often provides a great groove and a quality counterpoint to the melody in songs like “Anywhere” and “Tidal Wave”.

Traditionally, Interpol albums have begun with a stately, deliberate opener, and for the first 50 seconds, “All The Rage Back Home” seems to follow that pattern, before it pulls a left turn and abruptly shifts into a full-blown rocker.  I initially expressed skepticism when the song was first released, mainly for a lead-guitar line that seemed out of place, but the song has grown on me since then and I’ve fallen under its spell and now eagerly anticipate the hell that will break loose when its performed live.  Instead, I should have paid attention to more promising aspects of the song, like Sam Fogarino’s subtle touches, like his hits on the crown of the ride cymbal (noticeable around the 3 minute mark) or his work on the toms to help provide some added power to the final chorus.  Fogarino has long been the secret weapon in Interpol’s arsenal, and for the first time in years the band has figured out how to take advantage of his gifts.  Whereas the group had trouble with avoiding turning their start-stop rhythmic songs into slogs, Fogarino’s nifty hi-hat work on “My Blue Supreme” helps push the song forward and keep the listener’s attention, and his part in “Ancient Ways” is some of his liveliest playing in years.

There just seems to be a spark that runs through El Pintor, which helps give it a consistency that the band has lacked since Antics.  The album may not have peaks as high as those on Our Love To Admire, but it doesn’t have any out-and-out duds either.  El Pintor is a record that’s also worth exploring in a variety of settings–I’ve picked up several different nuances listening to the album on disc, on the computer, and through headphones, and in each instance the album as a whole has sounded excellent (which is reassuring, considering that the initial stream that I heard compressed the music so much that it was difficult to determine if dynamic contrast existed at all on the record).  Some critics have claimed that El Pintor is an attempt to recapture Interpol’s earlier sound, but I would argue that it’s more of a reinterpretation of their more recent direction.  There’s nothing that immediately recalls Turn on the Bright Lights or Antics directly, but this album seems to be a natural progression from those records than Our Love To Admire and Interpol were in hindsight.  There is the movement towards incorporating more strings and keyboards (courtesy of former Secret Machines member Brandon Curtis) that marked their recent output, though their not at the forefront of their songs; Daniel Kessler’s guitar once again is prominently featured, but he’s armed with better riffs this time and a careful sense of restraint.  This helps the songs breathe, and not make it seem like everything has to live or die based purely on the quality of Kessler’s guitar parts.  Once again, just as in their best work, the unit is functioning more like a “band” once again with each member fulfilling their role.

The main takeaway for fans is that the band isn’t rehashing tired old ideas, and most importantly, El Pintor signals for the first time in years that there is still a bright future ahead for Interpol.

Over the Weekend (Sept. 2 Edition)

New music and videos for your recovery from the Labor Day Weekend…

Peter Matthew Bauer released the video for “You Are The Chapel”, the majestic closer to his stellar debut album.  It’s a mix of both performance and lyric video, with a slight twist on the latter as you’ll see:

Spoon did a “Secret Show” for MySpace, and the site has posted their performance of “The Rent I Pay”.  The direct link has been pretty spotty, so if necessary, check out the band’s Facebook page for an alternate link; and if they upload more, we’ll be sure to send you over that way.

There are two new albums that will be released next week that we have our eyes on, and you can listen to their streams now in preparation.  Death From Above 1979’s The Physical World is streaming on iTunes, and NPR has had a stream available for Interpol’s El Pintor since last week.  For more discussion of El Pintor, Gigwise has a series of interviews with the band as well as an exclusive documentary covering the making of the new album.

Those aren’t the only albums coming out next week; Better Than Ezra was one of the bands that I loved from my youth, and not only are they still kicking, they have a new release next week with All Together Now.  Billboard is hosting a stream if you want to check it out.

And now, a look at some art: Gigwise has pictures of the cool accompanying art for the new Aphex Twin album Syro, and Paste Magazine talks to Josh Graham, the artist behind the projections used by Soundgarden for their recent tour with Nine Inch Nails.

Faith No More is releasing its first new album in 18 years, according to an interview that Rolling Stone conducted with bassist Bill Gould.  And while there is no confirmation of a Sleater-Kinney reunion, Sub Pop is releasing a massive boxset of remastered versions of their previous studio albums.

Frontman for The Strokes Julian Casablancas is set to release another solo album called Tyranny in a couple of weeks, and just released “Human Sadness” as its first single, a rather unorthodox choice considering it’s an 11-minute song.

TV on the Radio provided more information for their new album today, announcing that Seeds will be released on November 18, and also provided a list of tour dates for the fall.  Also, the band posted the first single “Happy Idiot”, complete with lyric video.

Didn’t get the chance to catch Kanye West on his latest tour?  SPIN has the link to his performance for the Made In America festival this weekend, where he performed in both LA and Philadelphia.

Catching Up On The Week (Aug. 29 Edition)

Some #longreads for your Labor Day weekend and pieces to look over in between college football games…

As you may have noticed, we are eagerly anticipating El Pintor, the new album from Interpol.  To help you feel the same excitement, we have interviews both old and new.  Under the Radar posted a piece from 2002 when the band was fresh off their classic debut Turn On The Bright Lights, while Rolling Stone talks to the band as they return in 2014.

The AV Club sets their sights on The Stooges’ legendary album Raw Power for their Permanent Records feature, and that fact alone should spur you to read it.  Elsewhere on the site, various writers discuss songs they love despite cringe-worthy lyrics.  I personally take issue with the first selection of “Conversation 16” by The National, whose lyrics I actually enjoy–the shock that comes from the drastic change in tone quickly turns to amusement, and I always enjoy cracking up when listening to the purposefully humorous chorus.

Pitchfork has an in-depth interview with Anthony Gonzalez, the mastermind behind M83, who discusses his early years as the group’s first three albums are getting reissued.  If you’re only familiar with the group because of “Midnight City” and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, I suggest you pick up these albums when you have the chance because they’re just as gorgeous, though with less of an 80’s influence (which to some may be preferable).

And finally, have some fun with Stereogum as they rank AC/DC’s albums and look back on the twentieth anniversary of Oasis’s Definitely Maybe.  I personally was first introduced to Oasis with their follow-up (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, but for many people their debut still represents the pinnacle of the band’s career.

Over the Weekend (July 14 Edition)

In contrast to the relative paucity of links from Friday, we’ve got an avalanche of videos and news this week.  So here we go!

The music world lost another giant this weekend, as Tommy Ramone passed away due to complications from bile duct cancer.  Tommy was a vital part of the Ramones, anchoring their back-to-basics but give-them-hell attitude from behind the drumkit, but he also was an early producer for the band and was the main creative force behind many of the band’s most-loved songs, including “Blitzkrieg Bop”.  After he left the Ramones, he continued making his mark, including producing one of the greatest albums of all time, Tim by The Replacements.  Now is as good as a time as any to listen to that album along with any and all Ramones albums you may have, and be sure to read this great write-up by Jon Wurster in SPIN.

Interpol released their “first” official video from El Pintor, for the propulsive and upbeat “All The Rage Back Home”.  I put “first” in quotations, because that ignores the live video for “Anywhere” that previously was released, but is also understandable because at least this is a studio recording.

Here are some initial thoughts on the song: 1) I love it when Interpol goes for speed, and it works even better in contrast to the slow open; 2) The lead guitar in the verses, while a continuation of the first slow part, clash way too much with the chords once the song gets into gear; it’s a lot like when I was in jazz band in high school, and the director would point to me suddenly and go “you have the next 16 bars”–a lot of noodling on the upper part of the neck that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever; 3) In the video they have Paul playing bass, emphasizing that as a recording unit they’re a three-piece, but live they will have a more traditional lineup with Paul on second guitar; overall, Paul acquits himself quite well, though I hope on other songs he attempts to replace Carlos D’s ability to use space and off-beat rhythms and lines that were such a key part of the early Interpol sound.  In related news, Interpol announced today the details of their fall tour, with tickets for most shows going on sale on Friday.

Speaking of tours, the recently reunited Slowdive (and subject of one of the first pieces on our site) have announced that they’re going beyond an initial run of festivals and are going on a full-fledged tour.  I can’t wait to see them in November, as that month seems to be shaping up to be “Reunion Month” with Death From Above 1979 stopping by the Northwest a couple of weeks later.

We’ve mentioned before how much we’ve loved Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut, and we’re glad to see that he’s released another music video, this time for “I Don’t Need Anyone”.  This one is pretty funny, and has a nice dark edge to it that’s perfect for a Monday.

Continuing with a theme of funny videos, Metallica cut a humorous promo for Sportscenter, fitting in with the latter’s long run of great ads.  In this spot, the band is looking for something to do now that Mariano Rivera has retired and so they no longer have to play “Enter Sandman” for his entrance music.

As there is the “Rule of 3’s” in comedy, so it is with funny music videos, as Weird Al released a video for his parody of Pharrell’s “Happy”, with the clever “Tacky”.  Yankovic gets some famous friends in on the fun, and those who have tired of hearing the original should welcome it. (Warning: Video autoplays)

And for your last video, if you need to come down a bit, there’s The National doing an interview over on Pitchfork that should help.

After some rumblings before, it’s now official that Radiohead will be heading to the studio to record their latest album in September, according to Billboard who listened in on a BBC radio interview.  As always, it will be interesting to see just what direction the band will take this time around.