Review Summary: I'm not going to talk about their influences
Why am I in to Parquet Courts? Really, why? From certain angles it doesn’t make any kind of sense. “Post-Punk Revival,” fluffy internet feature pieces scream at me from every turn, “but so beyond fresh!” Okay, I need to come clean here. In the past, I’ve been fairly judgmental, writing off modern indie bands for offenses like poor name choice (There’s a band called Indians AND a band called Tribes? And all of them are white?!) and contrived image. Can you really blame me? Too much of the good music I’ve been promised over the past few years has been washed out, watered-down, half-assed looting of records passed. So a bunch of cardigan-clad, buttoned-up Brooklyners-via-Texas stamped ‘Post-Punk’ by the presses-that-be? Yes I was skeptical. Yes I was a doubter. But may I tell you – now I’m a believer.
I was changing trash can bags when I gave the band’s second record, "Light Up Gold", my first run through. The opening few tracks are all-out assault. “Master of My Craft” starts with a slow stair-climber riff before tossing you feet first (sneakers or not) onto to a treadmill chugging at 20mph. Drummer Max Savage may as well be a series of gears, ever-clicking, precise, never giving an inch. He’s the endlessly propulsive force behind what is one of the most impressive strings of songs on a single record side I’ve heard in, well, a while. Flat, brick-wall stops give way to chattering, spaceless hooks faster than your computer can compute. I’m telling you, you won’t have time to take a breath. Parquet Courts are riding their bike with hands and legs stretched out like stars with no concern for tipping over. It’s cocksure, cocky…down-right show-offy, but it works. They’re so clearly trying to make an impression, and they’ve done a damn good job.
15 tracks in 33 minutes. You do the math. In the great tradition of short-formalists like Wire and Big Black, Parquet Courts aren’t interested in wasting your time. Imagine each track like a 30 second ad spot, a pitch for something so cool you’re not even sure how to process exactly what it is. Songs like “Careers in Combat” come and go before you blink and leave you salivating, screaming for more, hitting repeat. Call it punk marketing. Each avenue the band swings down (and they won’t stay in one place for long) is lovely in its own parsed-down, garage-y way. Even the one track that flirts with dragging, the five minute quick-step march of “Stoned and Starving”, is about half the length of the krautrock epics it mocks, and is chock full of pleasing moments.
Most exceptionally, "Light Up Gold" makes me feel like I know these guys. I don’t, of course, but I wouldn’t mind hanging out with them. They’re obviously having a ***load of fun, and in the process they’ve created a bit of their own world within the sleeve of the record. Through vocalist Andrew Savage, they’ve established a character for themselves - sad, lonely, hopefully, travelled, and funny as hell. The lyrics are as biting as they are smart -- and pretty too! “I fell in debt to/Those country crooners/Mourning lost love/Like Spanish funerals,” Savage sings on “Picture of Health.” This could be the return of poetry in indie rock. If so, I’m in total support. The past few years have left me feeling lucky when a band has one line in one song on one of their albums that makes me smile/nod in agreement. For the most part, words are secondary. Not so here. Insight is everywhere, and in many places, clever wordplay make the highlights so high. “N. Dakota” is absurdly fun, a kind of talking-blues twist paying homage to the great empty state. “In Manitoba/They call it boring/At night we sleep to/Canada Snoring.” I can’t get enough of it.
As the record wears on, you can feel a darkness setting in. Self-doubt. “I went to a shrink/and he found my brain/I have no ideas is what he found,” the band drone together in off-kilter harmony on “No Ideas.” Cheer up guys. You couldn’t be more wrong. "Light Up Gold" is a blessing; a small but effective dopamine shot to the head for rock & roll, a glimmer of hope for dispossessed guitar bands everywhere, and an inspiring success story from the greater cultural pit that is Brooklyn. One foot in the good work of the past, one foot and two hands in the future, these boys are headed for great things. Keep it up, please, if just for this one critic.