Parquet Courts
Sympathy For Life


2.5
average

Review

by Erwann S. CONTRIBUTOR (44 Reviews)
October 23rd, 2021 | 29 replies


Release Date: 10/22/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: no bootyshake this time 😥

Parquet Courts have always crafted albums as counterpoints to their very preceding record; guess what? Sympathy for Life is no exception, as co-frontman Austin Brown stated that Wide Awake! was a record you could put on at a party while Sympathy for Life is influenced by the party itself.

Seems like he ain't referring to the same party.

The group's apparent intent with this newest record of theirs was to capture a club's vibe. That's cool, but Parquet Courts are a gig band, not club bangercrafters - and it shows in Sympathy for Life's most evident influences, like Remain In Light-days Talking Heads. "Plant Life" is basically a David Byrne song with its afrobeat percussion and groovy bass lines - sounds cool innit? It sounds cool, yes, but it unfortunately ain't, with Parquet Courts falling into the dangerous trap of not committing enough to their new aesthetic.

Sympathy for Life manages to be both groovy and lackluster. Songs that do not depart from past formulas almost succeed but ultimately fail to truly leave a lasting impression; "Zoom Out" and "Homo Sapien" are very much fine in and of themselves, but they are not expanding the band's already large soundscape. Likewise, the stoner tunes like "Just Shadows" lack the energy that made "Stoned and Starving" a certified weed bop. Attempts at new sounds also do not land as smoothly as intended. Built out of lengthy jam sessions and abandoning conventional structures, tracks like "Plant Life" or "Marathon Of Anger" are trading verse and choruses to a layering of sounds that's as repetitive as it is minimalistic, yet they lack the trance effect that is so important for repetition to work. This is more than likely due to the record's creation process: condensing what once was an extended dancefloor mix into a three-minute song makes the band juggle awkwardly with the initial experimentation and the intensity needed to transform said experimentation into a bonafide banger. When thou wanna come up with a dancey album, thou shall not forget to bring the f u n - who the feck dances with a stoic figure? Groove might be present at times - the opener's basslines or the title track are just full of it thanks to Max Savage's drums and Sean Yeaton's bass- but even then it does lack, uh, passion?

This also applies to the vocal delivery. Lyrically, this is Parquet Courts at its Parquet Courtesque, with only closer "Pulcinella" trading political diatribe for emotional maturity. Andrew Savage’s descriptions of the bleaker aspects of modern living are balanced with tongue-in-cheek punchlines - "What a time to be alive, a TV set in the fridge!" is a big yes in terms of absurd reflections about the modern world. However, cool lyrics lose power if the voice delivering them seems to be thinking about their grocery list. The often deadpan delivery - as on "Black Widow Spider" - does not help the record's repetitive nature to become of a foot-stomping quality - for a dance-punk record, that sucks. This might persist as Sympathy for Life's most unnerving aspect: why so serious? Despite the grooviness, there remains very little of the wacky, chaotic, and basically fun vibe Parquet Courts have always provided. This also shows in the lack of conclusion within songs, the absence of climax dampening the slow power fueled by repetition (insert sex joke here).

You gotta pay respect to a band willing to continue pushing their sonic limits. Shame the result is only a half-step forward. Next time you gonna make me dance?



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user ratings (58)
3
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
dedex
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2021


10249 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I am disappointment

Stream: https://parquetcourts.bandcamp.com/album/sympathy-for-life

parksungjoon
October 23rd 2021


39266 Comments


pants dunk

Pajolero
October 23rd 2021


1216 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Their last record was so good that I feel like I would've been disappointed with the follow-up either way. I'm kind of relieved that it's a bit pants really, but maybe it'll grow on me after a few listens.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2021


3817 Comments


o rip sad this isn't good
good read tho hell yeah! edit: fixy yee

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2021


3236 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review dedex!



Have to say I vibed with this on first listen, but we'll see how I feel about it a couple spins. I've never gotten too far into Parquet Courts, so don't really have a clear impression of this versus their older material.

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2021


10249 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

thanks Sunny, hope peepz appreciate this one more than me!

you're still the king Jesp 😎

FuzzyThoughts
October 23rd 2021


101 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review--really captures my own thoughts on this. The record was a letdown for me. Kind of teetering between a 2.5 or 3.0. I'm hoping it grows on me a bit or that the songs are better live since I'll be seeing them next year.

theBoneyKing
October 23rd 2021


21158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Only gave this one spin so far but didn’t get too much from it. The closer rules though.

Sowing
Moderator
October 23rd 2021


40031 Comments


Never been able to get into this band even at their supposed best

theBoneyKing
October 23rd 2021


21158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, I’ve only heard Light Up Gold and Wide Awake and both are like solid 3.5s for me. They have good highlights though.

Bilbodabag
October 24th 2021


76 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Quite enjoyed Wide Awake but yeah this didn't grab me at all. Review is spot-on.

tom79
October 24th 2021


3842 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First listen was good. Need to give it a few more spins to properly digest it.

Digging: Julie Doiron - I Thought of You

Bedex
October 24th 2021


2819 Comments


was excited to check this but now I am a lot less keen


great review brutha m/

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2021


10249 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

bros m/

AxeToFall93
October 24th 2021


309 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, this isn't as good as their last two. Still pretty decent.

juiceviaorange
October 24th 2021


967 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I'm really diggin this album. Mind you, I really like everything they've released but this is the album I've been waiting for in some ways. I like its experimental nature and melodic bend. It kind of retains a healthy mix of Human Performance and Wide Awake while having Monastic Living's "fuck it, we're gonna do what WE want" aesthetic which I thought would be better received here. *Shrugs* oh well, I'm happy

Digging: The Weeknd - Dawn FM

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2021


3236 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

After my second spin, feeling a low 3.5 for this one. The first half is mostly not that impressive but it comes on strong in the second half, with the closer being easily the best track.

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2021


10249 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Hey I'm glad some peepz are liking this!

tom79
October 26th 2021


3842 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Digging it. Been following these guys since Light Up Gold and it's been interesting to chart their progression over the years. This is a step down from Wide Awake but still good enough to vibe to and the songs are varied. I'm happy.

Cimnele
October 26th 2021


1863 Comments


aaahh



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