Wide Awake! (Remote Control)
Parquet Courts can’t do everything: they aren’t much chop at harmonies and they would not be the world’s greatest melodicists. But they sure can jag about like post-punk agitators, growl at the low sky like No Wave art-noise kids, hum their way into something that sounds alarmingly like pop music, rush at you in a kind of Dr Feelgood/estuary R&B way, drop into downbeat northern England, dance up to a Bowie/Talking Heads/disco melange, and somehow fit Lynyrd Skynyrd into an album with about as much connection to southern rock as Rudy Giuliani has to reality.
Not too shabby for four white guys with guitars. In 2018.
But then Parquet Courts - from Denton, Texas originally; from New York City now – are not exactly a rock band. Or a punk band. Or an art house band. Or a dance band. Especially not a dance band; unless you call involuntary limb reactions dancing.
Except this is the Parquet Courts album which might just make you dance, albeit in a way that is less about moves and more about implosions and explosions. It pushes at the edges of beats-driven song sometimes, with the title track crowding out LCD Soundsystem comparisons with whistles, congas and barebacked guitar, Normalization breaking down into a deadly bit of dank disco, and in Back To Earth there’s a psych groove to sway to next to Bobby Gillespie.
But more often, if you are moving it’s from songs which fling you about “in the chaos position”, as it’s described in the two-faced Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience, which begins with roughhouse primitivism and then moves into a pogo-au-go-go.
Total Football is a bodyslam hidden inside tight jeans, slicked-back hair and buttoned up black shirts; NYC Observation is spiky, and spasmodic and a kind of alternative universe to Extinction which takes to its brisk guitar riff like the mix of glee and mania of a cat set free from the overnight lock up.
Some of the movement imperative could be attributed to producer Brian Burton/Danger Mouse, a man who can put a sheen on the lower orders, as it were, and make them feel like uptown strutters. But except for possibly Tenderness, which like Death Will Bring Change, is one of those almost shocking pop moments (recalling The Clash spreading their wings on London Calling) and the unlikely Freebird II (more like The Stranglers straining at the orthodoxy than Lynyrd), really, he’s just helped extend a long-running Parquet Courts feature into front of view.
A better example of Burton’s shiny clarity is evident in the way more standard PC fare gets out of its own way, such as So Violence which cracks through the Farfisa organ weeds with shafts of shouty light, Before The Water Gets Too High, which is sparse, reverberating moodiness, or maybe Mardi Gras Beads, which has an internal battle between its dream pop and classic rock sides and settles on psych rock.
So, yes, Parquet Courts can’t do everything, but they can do a lot.