Pablo’s Choice Record Of The Week 18/05/2018 – Parquet Courts – Wide Awake
18th May 2018
Fans and critics alike are giving Wide Awake high praise… here’s what the press are saying.
On their fourth album, Parquet Courts enlist Danger Mouse to produce an album of joyfully absurd, danceable rock music. It is straightforward but alien, simple but endlessly referential.
As familiar as they seem (four white guys, guitars), Parquet Courts don’t have many peers. Their music is both passionate and removed, rock not as a vehicle of emotional release but the simple venting of calories. Over the course of six albums, the band has explored a sound rooted in punk and early-’70s art rock that relies on the past without seeming sentimental about it. Even their romantic material is prickly, hug-proof, more occupied by the anxiety of having feelings than the relief of surrendering to them. They are a rock band refreshingly unconcerned with what it might mean to be a rock band. Like the restless minds whose contours they mirror, a good Parquet Courts song is neither happy nor sad so much as stupidly, consumingly alive.
Parquet Courts are relentless: in sound, ideology, tour schedules and release frequency. There’s always something by someone in the band about to be released – and that’s why it’s so surprising that they’re always so goddamn incredible.
Light Up Gold introduced the world to their unique blend of SST hardcore, Pavement slacker-jams and Velvet Underground chug. It also contained the vast majority of their best songs. Sunbathing Animal was harder and meaner that its immediate predecessor, but it also displayed some refinement and a honing of their sound. Human Performance, though sometimes criticized by members of the band as having too many ballads, was a quantum leap forward in terms of songwriting – particularly on songs like “Dust” and “Berlin Got Blurry”. That’s without even mentioning EPs, or the A. Savage and Daniele Luppi records from last year or so…
Last year was a doozy for the cliche of the ‘prolific’ band – King Gizzard put out five records, Thee Oh Sees are still being Thee Oh Sees – but New York’s Parquet Courts also deserve a shout. In the two years since Human Performance, two members have released solo records (vocalist Andrew Savage with Thawing Dawn and bassist Sean Yeaton collaborating with Mark Kozelek on Yellow Kitchen) whilst last year the band teamed up with Italian composer Daniele Luppi for MILANO, a conceptual full-length about the Italian city. What’s remarkable about the band’s output is not the quantity but the quality – Human Performance felt like a real breakthrough, one that might have needed some space to follow up. But nevertheless, here we are with a fresh Parquet Courts record two years later, and remarkably it’s even better..
The band’s sixth proper outing Wide Awake! sees them team up with Brian Burton (aka Dangermouse), who’s squeaky-clean production on some of Beck and The Black Keys’ tamest records could’ve raised some eyebrows. The NY punks are hardly the logical next step from collaborations with U2, Asap Rocky and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the last thing they need is their edges sanding down.
One listen through Wide Awake! is enough to dispel the doubt, however. Whilst opener ‘Total Football’ and lead single ‘In and Out of Patience’ would fit snugly on Light Up Gold, these moments sound new and surprising due to the clarity and invention of Burton’s recording. Burton was a fan of the band first before a collaborator, and you can tell – he gives them space to do what they’re good at, keeping their taut punk sound ticking and presenting them at their most confident and adventurous.
Not far into the monstrous track ‘Violence’ off of Parquet Courts’ new album, Wide Awake!, A. Savage lets his fury fly and spits out the line “this is why we cannot afford to close an open casket”. As he is so adept at doing as punk rock’s sitting poet laureate Savage evokes a century’s worth of images with one simply stated line. The arc from Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, to Emmett Till, to Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto, and latest but sadly not last Luke Hoyer is a long line of unintended “open casket” martyrs to the cause of ending senseless violence. Savage in his self-proclaimed fully “woke” state is willing to hoist the burden on his shoulders to put the world on notice regardless of anyone else’s complacency. His knack for a turn of phrase has always been amply evident including on last year’s solo turn Thawing Dawn, but the snippets thrown about on Wide Awake! rival the Minutemen’s D. Boon’s edifying notebook noodling. A line like Boon’s “richer understanding of what’s already understood” is met at its level with Savage’s “immunization of human sympathy” on ‘Normalization’ or “emancipation from expectation” on ‘Total Football’.
But first things first, Parquet Courts have teamed up with Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) as producer for their most musically diverse yet cohesive set yet. As odd a pairing as it sounds, last year’s outstanding and woefully ignored Parquet Courts pairing with Italian composer Danielle Luppi, MILANO, was released on Burton’s 30th Century Records. So a crossroads existed for this pairing to intersect, and intersect it does. The band’s punk roots blend seamlessly with everything from 60’s harmonies, 70’s hard funk, some dancehall/ska flavored tracks, and a couple of softer moments where co-songwriter Austin Brown takes the helm.
Watch The Video For Wide Awake Below