Review Summary: Societal and Political Dread Hitting You Five Drinks in at a Party
The post-punk, NYC-based Parquet Courts anesthetize us through vibrant sound and energy. "Wide Awake!" is the culmination of intelligent self-reflection and uncanny self-awareness. Their reflection results in a unique spin on social critique. This album is a separation of their energetic form and "woke" message. The end result is a punchy, fun album that seeps into your brain. Wide Awake! forces one to move, groove, and think twice about our omnipresent societal norms.
One finds themselves immediately behind the lyrics shouting out at you. Then, a moment to breathe, complete with darker themes infesting the subdued songs. Then back to the prior, then back and forth, till the energetic, hopeless "Tenderness" to finish it up. Often after finishing a challenging album, I find myself exhausted and need a nap. Not the case for this album, I felt rejuvenated and filled to the brim with the pointlessness of it all. The exuberant vocal and instrumental delivery makes me want to dance or shout. Yet, the lyrics depress me. As strange as it is, the tone of the album and the messages it transmits do seem opposed. So how do we marry the two together for a wonderful listening experience? The answer is as simple as it is paradoxical. Be cognizant and don't give a single sh*t.
The album is complete with funky bass-lines and guitar riffs in harmony with the vocals. The enthusiastic or subdued instrumentals realizes the same idea of operating without caring. While they aren't out of tune with the vocals, they often operate outside of the content of the songs. One notable example being the guitar riffs in "Mardis Gras Beads." Our guide laments they are drowning in their own memories during the biggest party on Earth - Mardis Gras. After he reflects, we hear blaring, fun guitar until it’s interjected with his next thoughts. This contrast paints the picture of someone dejected meandering around a massive celebration. We only get to hear the party filter through alongside the pauses in his well-put thoughts. Emphatic and purposeful instrumentals always back the cerebral thoughts. This relationship makes the initial, and repeated, listening experience a delight.
Let your brain be sharp as a blade, but you're going to be outdone by nihilism. It's the beauty of our experience and the at-times grating vocals hammer it home. No smooth voice could've grabbed our indifferent attention a way as memorable as this. This album is a blast to listen to, and yet, eats into the social norms and behaviors we've accepted. Why didn't we notice all the themes on the first way through? It doesn't matter, you wouldn't have done anything besides be a little more self-aware. sh*t sucks, and some people care, but humanity, in the end, doesn't. The world feels opposed to itself, and what are we to do but reflect ad infinitum. The Parquet Courts carved out a unique sphere to make some damn good music, as well as discuss actual topics. Let's hope they continue to innovate, both with their actual music and related message. And fu*k Tom Brady!