Parquet Courts

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Light Up Gold (2012) , 6/10
Sunbathing Animal (2014) , 5/10
Human Performance (2016), 7/10

New York's hippie-punk band Parquet Courts, fronted by vocalists and guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, paid tribute to an idiosyncratic set of classics on Light Up Gold (Dull Tools, 2012). Neither the speed nor the tone are hardcore. This is softcore punk-rock, easy digestible by the masses. The fundamental element is good old-fashioned rockabilly, packaged as nostalgic revival in Master of My Craft (with echoes of spaghetti-western soundtracks) and as post-puberal effervescence in Light Up Gold II (with echoes of the Sex Pistols). Johnny Thunder's Heartbreakers should tbe the reference point. Borrowed Time, instead, is charming enough to recall the adolescent frenzy of Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers. The range of role models is vast: Stoned and Starving borrows the hypnotic strumming of the Feelies, and Donuts Only relies on a shouted melody reminiscent of Kim Carnes' Crazy In The Night; and there are also a couple of acid lullabies, Caster of Worthless Spells and Picture of Health.

Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture, 2014) marks a disappointing step backwards as the best numbers are blatant imitations: the Cramps-ian fever of Black & White; What Color Is Blood, which is de facto a tribute to the Velvet Underground; Always Back In Town, whose boogie rhythm they may have found somewhere on Kevin Ayers's Shooting at the Moon; etc. The standouts, in fact, are two festivals of chidish banging and strumming, Sunbathing Animal and Ducking & Dodging, that hark back to British pub-rock of the late 1970s (Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe, etc). The limitations of the band come to the surface in the two longer songs (six and seven minutes, respectively), which are beyond boring. There was a time between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s when "revivalist" bands like this one popped up everywhere. Parquet Courts would have struggled to be heard.

Austin Brown and Andrew Savage also recorded under the moniker Parkay Quarts the EP Content Nausea (2014) that contains one of their best, Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth, their best impersonation yet of Lou Reed.

The EP Monastic Living (2015) contains some of their most daring experiments, notably Elegy of Colonial Suffering, a chunk of Lou Reed-ian "metal machine music".

Human Performance (Rough Trade, 2016) benefited from all those experiments. Beside the trivial ditties (Outside, that harks back to bubblegum-pop of the 1960s, the catchy folk-rock of Keep It Even and the calypso rap of Captive of the Sun), the album boasts the mournful but visceral Two Dead Cops, the dissonant Captain Beefheart-ian blues Paraphrased and especially Pathos Prairie, that sounds like a jovial country-rock version of Suicide. Even better is the odd pathos that is secreted in Dust by combining a sinister tribal Native-American beat and alienated Lou Reed-ian vocals. They now specialize in this kind of hybrid songs that assimilate the classics while negating them. Berlin Got Blurry weds Duane Eddy and Bob Dylan. The litany of Human Performance falls somewhere between Jonathan Richman and David Bowie. And so forth, epically forth.

The sociopolitical commentary of Wide Awake (2018) tried a broader sound.

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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