PARQUET COURTS – Human Performance (Rough Trade): The best punk outfit in the country has always had great riffs—“Black and White” and “Pretty Machines” and “You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now”—but with rare exception were those riffs the prime motivator to pull you into the words, or let you forget them altogether. Unlike Content Nausea’s hellish portraits of apathy run amok or Sunbathing Animal’s paranoia regarding sexy liaisons, Human Performance is, well, Parquet Court’s most human performance, one about love L-O-V-E. Yes, Andrew Savage dons his political observer cap when lamenting the phenomenon of alienation big city life can bring (“One Man, No City”) or capturing the on-the-ground confused frenzy and raw emotional reactions in the wake Ismaaiyl Brinkley’s 2014 murders (“Two Dead Cops”). But this is largely Savage and crew emerging from the wreckage of Monastic Living after their fall from comfortable observer perch on Content Nausea.
And that’s really the heart of the album. If Content Nausea was a foghorn blurting misgivings about our socio-political environment, Human Performance is about the Human Beings inhabiting that environment. That’s not to say these are character portraits. Rather, the songs recall instances any one of us might have personally experienced—sink full of dirty dishes as precursor to a departing lover (“Human Performance”), or the strange sensation as a foreigner of having natives sell you your own culture (“Berlin Got Blurry”)—rather than stand as an articulate, poetic critique of something we had misgivings about on a gut level but couldn’t voice properly.
So take the album title any way you want: Human Performance as the silly ritual of courtship and love or the lifelong endurance test of monastic living. For me that performance is best summed up in the list of involuntary bodily functions that occur when your love is leaving for real: “Eyes in the fire, blink unrehearsed.” And the riffs are great, too. A
Parquet Courts – Monastic Living (Rough Trade ’15): A MINUS
Parquet Courts – Live at Third Man Records (Third Man ’15): B PLUS (***)
Parquet Courts – Content Nausea (What’s Your Rupture? ’14): A
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What’s Your Rupture? ’14): A
Parquet Courts – Tally All the Things That You Broke (What’s Your Rupture? EP ’13): A MINUS
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold (Dull Tools/What’s Your Rupture? ’13): A MINUS
Parquet Courts – American Specialties (Play Pinball! ’11): A MINUS