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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Artist of the Day: Parquet Courts

For me, Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold was a few steps away from a miracle. Deriving the energy and authenticity of American Post-Punk into a new form without ending up sounding totally contrived is a feat at which many lesser bands have tried and failed. Did I mention they’re from Brooklyn? The odds were all against them making an impression, but impress they did. We’re learning, as the age of the revival wears on, that history is bound to repeat itself. Punk rock was a reaction to the excesses of Journey and bands who thought The Wall was the most relatable record ever made. It follows, then, that self-absorbed synth-pop’s new dominance in the trend-o-sphere would lead to a resurgence in silly, sloppy, guitar-based indie rock. As some Ramone once said, “we just want to make music fun again.”

Here’s the problem: until someone brings something new to the table, us disillusioned fun-lovers are better off burying ourselves in the work of music’s original nihilists. That’s why the Men’s Open Your Heart from last year sent me in to retreat, hopeless and playing Dinosaur Jr.’s You’re Living All Over Me on infinite repeat. To me, music that cynically rehashed could never feel real. I was sad, sure that lightheartedness was forever dead. And then, seemingly from nowhere, Parquet Courts to the rescue.

From the opening melodic ladder-climb of “Master of My Craft” all the way to the valiant conclusion, there’s something vital about Gold. It feels current, alive. Frontman Andrew Savage draws heavily from the vocal vocabulary of masters like Stephen Malkmus and Curt Kirkwood, but he does one hell of a job, melding lyrics both caustic and funny. “At night we hum to/Canada snoring” he states flatly on the wonderful “N. Dakota.” The record is almost effortlessly smart. I mean really, it doesn’t seem like they’re trying. That’s got to mean something. Had I been born ten years earlier, I’d probably feel the same way about Is This It. Yeah, it’s that good. But while the Strokes were at their most revelatory when discussing felacio, Parquet Courts’ collective personality is far more nuanced, at once self-defeating and confident, insightful and empty. 

The band’s first album, American Specialties, was released exclusively on cassette tape, a move that was totally, illogically cool. Light Up Gold, which actually came out last August on Savage’s own label, didn’t even reach the mainstream until about a month ago when it was reissued on What’s Your Rupture?. Critical acclaim has since been spilling in, and deservedly so. These guys are going places, no doubt about it. In the future, you might see some of those American Specialties tapes going for a chunk of change on your favorite online auction website. Thrift store bin-divers take note!

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