Today, Paul Banks is simply Paul Banks. Yesterday, he was Julian Plenti.
It’s understandable if it sounds a bit confusing. Banks put out a first solo album under the pseudonym Julian Plenti while Interpol was on hiatus in 2009. Last month, he released a second solo album under his own name, embracing strategically and musically a new motto — simplify.
And simplification is the major difference between Paul Banks the solo act and his band Interpol. Banks solo enjoys more of the quiet moments, strumming to a more peaceful brand of post-punk than the more aggressive music found in Interpol’s albums. Sonically speaking, if Interpol wants to rush into awkward sex on the first date and harbor recriminations about it, Banks solo wants to romance and take it slow. And still maybe have some recriminations about what happens later.
The crowd of roughly 200 or so people at The Howard Theatre were there Friday night to listen respectfully to what Banks had to say as a solo artist. An early shout-out for “Interpol!” was shouted down by several others from across the room, “Paul Banks!” Banks offered up 15 songs from his two solo albums, the new ones from the latest album, Banks, sounding as sweet and melancholy as the songs from Julian Plenti Is Skyscraper. Opening with Julian Plenti’s “Fly As You Might” and “Skyscraper,” Banks and his three-piece backing band then seamlessly moved into material from the self-titled Banks.
Brothers Richard and Tim Butler have such a strong love of performance that it’s not hard to see why they keep touring the Psychedelic Furs despite the band’s last album dropping in 1991.
To be fair, the Psychedelic Furs went through an intensively creative period in the first half of the ’80s, putting out timeless post-punk gems like “Love My Way,” “Heaven” and of course “Pretty in Pink.” When the Furs tour, they hit those highlights as well as “Heartbreak Beat” and “Highwire Days” naturally. Richard Butler, theatric and emotive, sings with his whole body, literally walking the audience through the songs on occasion. Bass player Tim Butler, silent in shades, stands behind his famously emotive brother, looking like the muscle in the room suggesting, “Yeah, you better listen to what he said.”
And what Richard says, or sings rather, is a well-loved catalog of songs about heartache and cynicism all delivered softly, lyrically and passionately. The Furs have a new song, “Little Miss World,” which fits in smartly with their better-known older songs. My personal favorite “All of This and Nothing” gave us a sharp saxophone solo from Mars Williams, who brilliantly solves the challenge of being in a six member group by taking a break from the stage when he’s not needed there. But the band and singer come together very well and Butler’s message to an ex-lover, “you didn’t leave me anything that I can understand,” always hits me in the gut. The Furs still sound great live and they perform well, easily justifying their longevity.
courtesy of Man Alive!
The Psychedelic Furs have not put out a new album since 1991′s World Outside.
That has not stopped the English post-punk group from touring the United States non-stop since the year 2000. Indeed, they have been through the Washington, DC, metro area several times in the last year or so, playing The State Theater in Falls Church, Va., and the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md. Now they make their first trip to the newly renovated Howard Theatre tonight, performing perennial favorites such as “Love My Way,” “Pretty in Pink” and “President Gas.”
Opening for the Furs are The Lemonheads, the Boston post-grunge rockers known for goofy drug songs. The pairing of The Lemonheads and the Psychedelic Furs may appear to have little rhyme and reason at first glance, but Lemonheads’ bass player Juliana Hatfield long has been an admirer of new wave-tinged 80s rock groups like the Furs and even sang a duet with lead singer Richard Butler in the past several years — so perhaps the genesis of the pairing occurred with her. Unfortunately, Hatfield dropped out of the tour after initially planning to participate.
Still, the Psychedelic Furs have a well-earned reputation for being one of the most engaging live bands ever to tour, which has helped them sustain the band quite easily in the past decade. Tickets are $30 plus fees. See you there!
Psychedelic Furs w/ The Lemonheads and The Chevin
Tonight! Monday, Oct. 22
doors 6pm; show 8pm
The Howard Theatre
Ever get the feeling that a band has toured too much recently? That they have developed a bit of a tired tour routine that could be freshened up a bit by some time off or some new material?
Unfortunately, such was the case with The Wombats, visiting the 9:30 Club Monday night from Liverpool, UK, promoting material from a pretty good second album, This Modern Glitch. Despite a lot of really clever post-punk songs, The Wombats couldn’t maintain enough momentum to keep the attention of the room, which was not quite 70 percent full, leaving audience members to drift way or to start texting people they would rather be spending their time with. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that this situation was created at least in part by the fact that The Wombats had stopped in town exactly six months previously.
I consider The Wombats to be a talented trio. I went to their last show and interviewed their drummer beforehand. The Wombats had demonstrated that they are not a flash in the pan, which they easily could have been after the indie success of their breakout single “Let’s Dance to Joy Division.” Instead, they focused on solid song writing and catchy licks to produce a sophomore album that is better than their first, despite the lack of an equally catchy single like the ode to their Manchester post-punk forebears.
all photos by author.
Wire played at the Black Cat on Thursday night for an adoring crowd of older fans and hardcore music geeks. They are touring on their excellent new album, “Red Barked Tree”. The new album was featured heavily on Thursday night, but Wire also offered up a sampler of the many phases they have gone through in their 30+ years career. The show was an interesting blend of energy levels and quality as the many sounds of Wire don’t always fit neatly next to one another. This was my first time seeing Wire in concert; while I walked away satisfied by the show, it was not the knock-out performance I was expecting.
If Wire will be remembered for one thing, it will be that they always did things on their own terms. One of the most important bands in the punk to post-punk transition, Wire harnessed the energy of ’77 UK punk to fuel their strange creations. Along with peer-bands like Magazine and Joy Division, they helped herald in a new era of unconventional sounds. Never satisfied being pigeonholed by the critics as “this type of band” or “that type of band”, Wire shifted gears many times over the years. From punk to post-punk to pop to industrial and so on, Wire were and still are always in a state of flux. While this is the thing that makes Wire such a satisfying and exciting band to listen to at home, I’m afraid it held their live show back a little bit on Thursday.
all photos by author.
On Saturday night at the Black Cat, legendary Dutch post-punk group The Ex treated DC fans to an energetic run through of most of the songs off their latest album, “Catch My Shoe”, a Hungarian folk song they used to do with Tom Cora, and a cover of the Konono No.1 song “Huriyet”. The Ex have been a band for over thirty years and while their line-up has changed many times over the years (most recently with a change of lead singers) the band has always maintained core values of improvisation, collaboration, and blistering guitar action. It was this third value that was most prominently on display Saturday night.