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Interpol (Paul Banks) and Bloc Party (Russell Lissack) - photos by Peter Dovgan


Hordern Pavilion, November 18

“The politics of dancing, the politics of ooh feeling good/The politics of moving, aha, if this message is understood.” (Reflex, 1983)

THERE IS A FAIR DEGREE of sense in this trans-Atlantic, alternating-headliner double bill of bands creatively founded on the interplay of a dominant lead singer and a sonics-sculpting guitarist, but fundamentally driven by historically less stable and less publicly prominent rhythm sections.

Roughly the same late ‘90s vintage, with New Yorkers Interpol having a two-year head start on London’s Bloc Party, each band has its musical roots in different shades of the post-punk era in the UK, a scene where rhythm and intensity made for a new kind of dance music – harder, darker, more tense – that focused on controlled release rather than abandon, on semi-lit rather than flashing brightly dancefloors. More head than hedonism you might say.

Those similarities extended to the way each band began its set: slowly, establishing rather than immediately scene-setting, with an older song in some debt to The Cure emerging from a stage bathed in non-light.

Bloc Party built into So Here We Are like a gradually warming introduction to our later discussion; Interpol moodily foreshadowed a more terse exchange with Untitled. While Bloc Party extended that feeling with an almost elegant mid-tempo take on Sex Majik before Russell Lissack’s guitar began spinning vivid sparks off Hunting For Witches, drummer Louise Bartle, the undoubted star of the night, and bass player Harry Deacon practically charging towards us, 90 minutes later for Interpol the smash and clang of Daniel Kessler’s guitar in C’mere immediately reset the sharper, chillier tone, met by the martial stomp of stand-in drummer Chris Broome, bassplayer Brad Truax and keyboardist Brandon Curtis.

From herein, the Americans made slight variations to tempo and marginal changes in mood, our movement chased by shadows in Into The Night and x-rayed in the negative dance of The Rover, swamped by cascading torrents in All The Rage Back Home and bent with waves of dark matter in Roland. (Does this make sense in physics? Well, it does in this room.)

Things swung more dramatically for the English quartet who could turn the tap on Interpol-like mood with the synth-enhanced Different Drugs, segue from a vigorous For Clay into the mass eruption of dancing and singing that was a more brutal Banquet, build again in This Modern Love and make it payoff in the flowering Like Eating Glass.

The real difference between the bands, the separation of this conjoined night, might show with those singers: the once-uptight Kele Okereke in light and brighter clothes, working the crowd in professional showman mode; the more taciturn Paul Banks, like the rest of his band in black suit, topped off by sunglasses and only as necessary between-song thanks.

But in truth they reflect a deeper truth: Bloc Party made the room feel like a club where all energy is directed to the centre and exposure is not just inevitable but welcomed; Interpol transformed it into a low-ceiling hangar with corners emerging where none should be, all pockets of recess and regrets. Same same but so different.

Interpol and Bloc Party play Riverstage, Brisbane on November 22

A version of this review ran originally in The Sydney Morning Herald.


REACH OUT AND TOUCH INTERPOL: Paul Banks maybe smiling in Byron Bay


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