I’ve been blown away by this punk quartet since I heard their debut after being intrigued by the album art. They’re witty, fun, unafraid of exploring sentimental subject matter and unabashedly left-wing. And it seems everything they touch turns to gold. The high praise of all they’ve done so far (and a recent rave review from Pitchfork) has many wondering what this might do for their popularity. Personally don’t give a shit so long as they can keep cranking out material this good.
Though I address it below, I feel like it demands further comment. Any review of Sunbathing Animal has been awash with comparisons to older artists. On some level this is justified and even necessary, as their sound does point to decades gone by, but anyone who’s name-dropping should be doing it because the philosophies of the bands in questions are similar, not just the tone of their guitar. That’s why I don’t get the Pavement references. Mention Richard Hell all you like; that one makes sense. But if you think the details Savage and Brown drop are as random as Malkmus’s, you need to pull out Wowee Zowee again.
PARQUET COURTS – American Specialties (Play Pinball!): Limited release of the Brooklyn duo’s true first album cut in 2011. Instead of taking my chance purchasing vinyl I wouldn’t be able to hear for another year or so—and not to mention that the four pressings are (gasp!) sold out—I converted their Soundcloud clips into Sides A and B (a useful tip for you home pirates), so the sound quality is pretty poor, but I imagine a self-produced album that was ditched in favor of Light Up Gold doesn’t sound a whole hell of a lot better on a turntable than it does in crappy MP3. True to form, this is a quagmire of untuned guitars, feedback frenzies, muted bass n’ drums, but buried underneath the shitty ‘studio’ slush is loose, raw kinetics capped with the same humor and decidedly strange details with which they’ve become associated: “She’s got eyes like a Taco Bell drive-thru / Open late and there on purpose,” “Rock and roll has got me snoring / Ringtones, logos, car commercials.” An insight into these cowboys’ early unpolished days that contrasts nicely with their new crisp release. A MINUS
PARQUET COURTS – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture?): Texans-turned-Brooklynites Andrew Savage and Austin Brown aren’t reinventing punk, but they do what many ‘post-punk’ groups don’t: they do it correctly, whatever the word’s worth. With one foot flooring the choruschoruschorus guitar lick pedal and the other kicking out wry details to color their yarns, they conjure critics’ desire for comparison because they not only evoke the sounds of ‘70s American punk but also follow through on lyrical prowess. They put on their best Modern Lovers makeup for slow-burning “Instant Disassembly,” turn to Television on “My Ramona,” exert with “What Color is Blood” their New York Dolls street swagger. They dip into politics and dabble with relationships, rightfully skeptical yet concurrently curious if their paranoia is justified: “Whoever she might be going to bed with / You can read about that in her Moleskin,” “All my letters are in codes […] Burn my letters once they’re read,” “Is the solitude I seek a trap?” Nothing is more damning than Savage’s Soviet-style surveillance-state ode “Ducking and Dodging,” which could signify as literally as you like or as figuratively as a base assertion that life doesn’t always let you be yourself. And what better metaphor could there be for predatory liaisons than the album’s namesake? Cool and calm at face value; rabid and violent if provoked. Has this been done before? Sure. But what Savage and Brown realize is that the riffs only take off when there’re words to propel them. And a note on comparisons: no matter what anyone tells you, Parquet Courts do not sound like Pavement. I’ll say it again: Parquet Courts do not sound like Pavement. A