Interpol: Coachella Festival, Friday April 29

Interpol: Coachella Festival, Friday April 29

Dark clouds obscure the desert sun

As the sun goes down at Coachella, so the mood of sunkissed Cali goodwill curdles. Blue lights blot out the perfect starscape, and, on the neighbouring stage, Jarvis Cocker’s cheeky northern stand-up routine is drowned out by space-rock guitars gliding out into the desert night. As four dimly lit New Yorkers stride out on to the main stage, thousands of sunburned festival-goers drop their Margaritas in unison and feel a sudden chill in the air.

Yes, Interpol operate in a different sphere to the rest of the Coachella festival. Among the carefully manicured lawns of the Empire Polo Club, they immediately create a black oasis of bleak Big Apple paranoia. From a stage drenched in red, opener ‘Obstacle One’ rings out across the valley, its chorus (“I’ll never see your face again/You go stabbing yourself in the neck”) ruining a thousand fratboy beer-buzzes.

It might only be two and a half years since Interpol’s second album ‘Antics’, but to most of us it seems like an eternity. While party bands have gleefully marauded across our nation, the shadows beyond the glowsticks have been left unsung, with only a few second-rate exceptions (hi there, Editors). Now, midway through 2007, and with our appetite for more Interpol larger than a white trash family in Taco Bell, third album ‘Our Love To Admire’ is imminent. And the big news is that they’ve gone all Arcade Fire on our sunburnt British asses.

‘Mammoth’ is the first new song out of the bag, sounding like Win and family trying out the rollerdisco: an urgent, pumping monster as monolithic as its title suggests. ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ is a divinely comic Cure gaddabout, and ‘Slow Hands’ is as heart-wrenching as ever, bringing the sound of a British indie disco circa 3am to California’s scantily clad. Cut in sharp suits and barely breaking a sweat, Interpol command the entire site as spotlights reach to the heavens: it’s a monumental moment.

‘The Heinrich Maneuver’, another new one, broods in eerily celestial fashion, after which the washing sounds of a broken transistor subside into ‘C’mere’ – jerkier than before and as spasmodic as the marionette in the video.

The other alteration in the Interpol camp is former goth heart-throb Carlos, now a moustachioed figure thrashing his low-slung bass. He may look part-Charlie Chaplin impersonator, part-Victorian chemist, but he remains a fascinating and surreal character.

Tonight this scorching desert belongs to New York cool. Forget The Jesus And Mary Chain and RATM for now, after the side-project (drummer Sam Fogarino’s The Setting Suns) and long absence, this feels like a reunion. Actually, scrub that: as an epic ‘Not Even Jail’ brings things to a juddering halt and Klaxons and Monkeys look on entranced, this is an epiphany or maybe just heat-stroke. Whatever, one thing’s for sure, when they return to the UK, Interpol will be making mass arrests once again.

Tim Chester

Interpol play Oxegen, T In The Park and the Carling Weekend: Reading And Leeds Festivals