Who is Interpol anyway?

Music Reviews
Interpol lead singer Paul Banks stands before a packed Michigan Theater on Sunday. (Forest Casey/Daily)

After four years of freezing the insular indie-rock world in its tracks with paralyzing post-punk, we still have no idea who the humans are behind the endless “name that influence” comparisons and $6 million Armani mope suits.Sunday’s performance at the Michigan Theater was as unsatisfying as it gets: an industrial light show that would make George Lucas give pause and provide more brilliant moments (literally) than the band’s muted onstage demeanor and intelligibly fuzzed-out vocals.After seeing the band once, whose commitment to touring is admittedly strong, you can predict their set list. The first five songs were all off Antics, their juggernaut of a sophomore album that broke indie-rock chart records, and, expectedly, they started the whole show with “Next Exit,” the Antics album opener. Their playbook doesn’t change, and on this night, that was almost enough.They’re clearly dedicated to attempting to recreate the studio experience onstage, but for a band whose rhythm section is so heralded, settling for studio sound stinks of complacency. Drummer Sam Fogarino got a chance to noodle around with his snares between songs two-thirds of the way through the set, and for 40 seconds Interpol showed some life. Guitarist Daniel Kessler did his little manic hop around the stage before coming back to his pedals. Bassist Carlos D stopped trying to look oh-so-chic and actually played bass with the metropolitan angst that made Turn On The Bright Lights so damn powerful. Yeah, their renditions of “Evil” and “Narc” earlier in the night were dependable (though the band’s creeping reliance on late era-Police dub-plate guitars is disheartening). But this, this was the fun part of the evening. The suits onstage were loosening up and the shrieking bandwagon kids took a breath as the band recharged.But before you knew it, lead singer Paul Banks signaled for the next song and the first moment of genuine fun had evaporated.Banks, whose arctic tenor does little but recall the ghost of Ian Curtis, is the clear ringleader. The talented guys behind the instruments tolerate his asinine, undercooked undergraduate poetry: “Time is like a broken watch / And make money like Fred Astaire.” Interpol famously refuses to play covers; I wonder why?Toward the end of the set the crowd was absolutely ravenous. The Michigan Theater seemed overmatched by Interpol’s howling fan base and what does Paul Banks do? He plays “Stella Was A Diver and She Was Always Down,” a momentum killing cut whose deft little chord progression can’t save a laughable chorus where Banks simply screeches “Stella!” for a couple of seconds.Poor song choice is a hallmark of their shows. The gnawing paranoia of “Obstacle 1?” Not tonight. The creeping Paxil-melodrama of “Untiled?” Nope. By and large they stuck to Antics and after a while it felt like fan-baiting antics.While the calls for Banks’s head should wait until their third album, their Ann Arbor appearance did nothing to subdue the skeptic’s fears. Interpol has the world on a string and seems content to do absolutely nothing with it.

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