PARQUET COURTS: KEEPING PUNK ALIVE

In regards to Parquet Courts jittery, scratchy, and bombastic 2012 debut record Light Up Gold, Tim Hodgin wrote:

” [It] is a conscious effort to draw from the rich culture of the city – the bands like Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground that are not from New York, but of it. A panoramic landscape of dilapidated corner-stores and crowded apartments is superimposed over bare-bones Americana, leaving little room for romance or sentiment. It’s punk, it’s American, it’s New York… it’s the color of something you were looking for.

Punk isn’t a new musical phenomenon, but it’s certainly proved to be an enduring movement. The Ramones’ self-titled album was released this upcoming weekend, forty years ago, which some would say was responsible for launching the punk movement into the mainstream; to say the least, times have changed. We have cell phones, the internet, Chipotle, and I’m sure a few other technological advances I’m not thinking of. And yet, a band hasn’t emerged since that’s cooler than The Ramones: if The Strokes were a distant second, Parquet Courts may be inching in quickly. Another thing to note here–or perhaps you might call it a bias: all of these bands are from New York. What’s up with that? **

Parquet Courts has released four albums up to this point. Their first release, American Specialties, was more or less a quick introduction in DIY punk fashion: a mixed bag of four-track recordings exclusively released on cassette tape.  Although it’s possible to find these tracks elsewhere now, the original cassette is something of a collector’s item, with roughly only 100 copies in existence, with it’s odd Chinese-American food inspired cover art, also designed by guitarist-singer Andrew Savage.

Courts breakthrough into the indie world came in 2012 with the aforementioned Light Up Gold, which received near-universal acclaim from the music press. The album showcased the bands raw energy and Andrew Savages poignant viewpoints on the dismantling American times we live in. On “Borrowed Time“, he sings:

“Was feeling nostalgic for the days when / My thoughts dripped on to my head from the ceiling / I remember the feeling of the muse less existence / Of the drunk, bored and listless \ Endless waiting for something that I knew wasn’t coming.”

As a fellow snake person, I could instantly relate to his feeling. “Stone and Starving” captured a similar situation: a young, starving artist, debating between roasted peanuts and Swedish fish. Parquet Courts followed suit with Sunbathing Animals, a project that landed the band a proper position on the US charts. Tracks like “Black and White” and “Ducking and Dodging” provided further insights, building on the same punk sound.

If you enjoyed their previous albums, their most recent Human Performance is a rewarding shift in gears.  They teased the record with groovy mural art. The albums focal point again is Adam Savages lyrics: discussing the anxiety of living in a city in uncertain times. However, They’re showing a divergence in style: an acute progression from their original street guitar rock content to a diverse range of sounds, instruments. Human Performance is a post-punk record.  If Light Up Gold was Wire’s Pink Flag, Human Performance is Wire’s Chair’s Missing.

Perhaps because of the atonal guitar noise, or the cynical nature of Andrew Savage’s lyrical content, Parquet Courts draws many comparisons to Pavement, a band that also showcased a raw DIY energy through the progression of their albums in the 90s.  However, not everyone appears to be so fond of this comparison. I tend to hear more of the early punk influences. They have the minimalism of The Velvet Underground. They have an all-around uncanny resemblance to Modern Lovers. In reality though, no one sounds just like Parquet Courts. They own their coolness all to themselves.

If you’re an avid Parquet Courts fan, now is the time to catch them on stage. They’re currently on tour and will be hitting most major American cities this Spring/Summer. They’re also touring with B Boys, who just released their debut EP No Worry No Mind, and will even do one show with Priests, for whom I got to see perform live at Philly’s Underground Arts and wrote about here.

** To clarify, AtypicalSounds is based in New York, but I’m from North Carolina, and write from Philly.  I’ve been to New York a handful of times, and it more or less feels like a giant theme park for rich people, but what can I say? New York has awesome music. And that’s all that matters.