Friday, January 18, 2013

Parquet Courts Crushes Light Up Gold

Parquet Courts by Heather Strange
Brooklyn is fast becoming the most dynamically diverse musical spot in North America. So much so that after Parquet Courts cut their teeth on the Texas music scene, they packed up some stuff and headed off to New York. Never mind that starting up somewhere else wouldn't be easy.

Getting gigs is competitive. Practice spaces are expensive. Finding day jobs is a necessity. And staying motivated is sometimes contingent on how long it takes for someone to dig your stuff. For Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, that meant potent, stripped-down poet punk about the wildly alien world from which they hail.

Parquet Courts comes across as deliciously ambivalent, twangy punk. 

As their new self-released album Light Up Gold enters its second pressing, the three-quarter Texas-bred quartet is winning people over for their wildly intelligent and bizarre prose about places and people on their first proper LP. The charm of it is partly situational and partly topical.

It's a cross-country foray into the DIY underground. But more than that, it has a greater sense of purpose than their little heard and less spoken about cassette debut, American Specialties. Savage says it best in the liner notes: "This record is for the over-socialized victims of the 1990s 'you can be anything you want,' Nickeleon-induced lethargy that ran away from home not out of any wide-eyed big city daydream, but just out of a subconscious return to America's scandalous origins."

Borrowed Time, the second track most served up as an introduction, makes sense of the assessment. Savage and his bandmates feel nostalgic for their youth when they could lay around waiting for something to motivate them. But, you know, sometimes it never comes around.

This brilliant little ditty plays out like most of the tracks, in just over or just under two minutes. As lyricists, neither Brown nor Savage need much space. Some tracks don't constitute more than a couple of lines, delivered with an incessant repetition over a bed of gritty guitars, bass lines, and percussions.

Master Of My Craft, which likely inspired the album's name as much as the title track, plays fast and loose as the pace setter. Parquet Courts aren't looking to learn anybody anything. They're looking for their first gold record. Except, they really aren't as ambivalent as they want to come across. Socrates might be dead, but there are plenty of people who can relate to the state of the places they visit.

Donuts Only, for example, tucks all of Texas in a one-and-a-half minute hole. And yet they manage to work in more words than 90 seconds can accommodate, singing matter of factly about a small town murder, religious fervor, and the scarcity of bagels. Max Savage (drums) is especially sharp here.

If you sense some semblance of a beatnik vide, you would be right. Parquet Courts captured these crazy scenes from the places they've seen, with an emphasis on absurdities. But the lyrics aren't the only  driver. The band was hellbent on capturing the aesthetics of every cover with their instruments.

Other standouts include N Dakota, which adds emphasis to Shaun Yeaton's oft post-punk bass lines as the vocal duo pronounces one of the dreariest pictures of North Dakota ever crafted. Stoned And Starving trivializes Queens into a drug-induced blur. And although speculative, it sure sounds like P.T. Disney is a kiss-don't-tell tune about a food-borne norovirus in Wyoming. But even if it wasn't clairvoyant when it was recorded, it's still a smart and snappy tune like every track on the album.

Light Up Gold leaves listeners sweaty and smiling, mostly amused by the meandering cynical soundscape and enough vocal variety that never gets boring. Even if there are occasional pitch problems, it's easy enough to brush off as punk not pigeonholed.

Light Up Gold Crushes Everything At 9.7 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The entire album is worth the download, especially because many of tracks sound their best alongside each other as opposed to some random playlist. Light Up Gold is one of the few outings that begs someone to press play and let all 15 tracks loop for an afternoon. Only No Ideas is likely to feel tired.

Light Up Gold by Parquet Courts is available for download on iTunes. Light Up Gold is also available on Amazon. Barnes & Noble is slated to have the CD soon. Check their website for updates.
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