Last night, KCRW's invite-only Interpol showcase had two can't-miss qualities about it. Held at a studio in Santa Monica that housed only 150 people, it was the smallest venue I'd ever seen Interpol at, and I'd seen them about 10 times all over the country--from the Palladium to Lollapalooza to a dinky men's club-turned-venue in the Midwest--since their 2002 debut Turn On the Bright Lights.
It was also one of the first times Interpol performed in public without the legendary Carlos D on bass. Although Carlos D was part of the writing process of the fourth album Interpol (out today), the new formation is now made up of a core trio with Paul Banks on vocals, guitar, Daniel Kessler on guitar and Sam Fogarino on drums. Live, Dave Pajo (who was in Slint and have played with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) replaces Carlos D on bass and Secret Machines' Brandon Curtis mans the keyboards.
During the interview with KCRW musical director Jason Bentley, the band said Carlos D's departure wasn't that much of a surprise, to the effect of: "Like in a bad relationship, there's always signs that the other person wants out."
Did Carlos D's absence make a difference? Not really. Pajo said he tries to play Carlos D's parts "the way I hear them." And watching the band live, there was, of course, that missing piece, the bouncy flair that was the foil to guitarist Kessler's slick, dance-y footwork that was an improbable fit to the band's dirge-y, melancholy sound.
But maybe bassist Carlos D's departure was enough of a shakeup for the band to lend them a bravado that the new songs need; despite critical claims that their first two albums are still the best, it's no less thrilling to dance to "Lights," or hear Paul Banks' painfully emote "Please explore my love's exploitations" on "Try It On." Listening to the set with my eyes closed, Interpol sounded like they finally have a handle on their aesthetic--sure it's morose, but it's also more confident and aggressive, more rock & roll, and kind of ... exciting.
The new songs--of the few that were played--were an extension of the atmospheric, urban soundtrack that the band introduced in Turn on the Bright Lights. No, they did not do anything terribly new or different, and by now, neither do fans expect them to. As Sam Fogarino said, they didn't feel much like experimenting in the studio. "We knew what we wanted to leave with."
And when the tiny, 150-person room sang along wholeheartedly with Banks during the rising chorus of "Evil," a song off their sophomore set Antics, Banks finally showed emotion and grinned unexpectedly. At the very least, these city slickers still want to leave a crowd wanting more--and that's as excitable as Interpol can be.
The Interpol session with be airing during Morning Becomes Eclectic at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 9. It will also be available in the archives at that time here. It is also streaming here.