Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
When an artist pumps out as much material as the guys in Parquet Courts have managed over the past half-decade or so, the concern is that the ideas aren’t effectively filtered enough. Effectively, we’re getting quantity over quality.
That hasn’t been the case for the band so far, and that mercifully doesn’t change with their sixth record Wide Awake! In fact, this may be Parquet Courts at their best yet.
‘Total Football’ is an outstanding opener. The band’s familiar brand of taut post-punk propels Andrew Savage’s eloquent diatribe about the benefits of working together, making it both thought provoking and pogo inducing.
‘Swapping parts and roles is not acting but rather emancipation from expectation,’ Savage hollers at the song’s close. ‘Collectivism and autonomy are not mutually exclusive’.
It’s one of many tracks on Wake Up! that would have easily slotted into just about any of the band’s previous records seamlessly. Tracks like ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience’, ‘NYC Observation’ and ‘Extinction’ all feature the charming slacker-rock vibes that drew us to the band in the first place.
‘Mardi Gras Beads’ sounds like America covering Pavement, while, mercifully, ‘Freebird II’ is more Elvis Costello than it is Lynyrd Skynyrd.
But it’s the subtle sidesteps that take the record from being just another good Parquet Courts album to something that pushes the band to new highs.
Moments in songs like ‘Normalization’ and ‘Violence’ bring to mind the glorious 90s New York City cut-and-paste funk/rock/hip hop that artists made artists like JSBX and Beastie Boys sound so fresh.
The cinematic soul of ‘Back To Earth’ – perhaps the biggest outlier on the album – mightn’t be the band’s finest moment, but it still connects. While the title track has an early 2000s dance-punk groove the likes of which we haven’t heard from the band before.
Danger Mouse’s presence in the producer’s chair is no cause for concern. Much like the way Mark Ronson brought the best out in Black Lips on Arabia Mountain in 2011, Danger Mouse doesn’t want Parquet Courts to be anything but themselves. That’s the thing with producers of this calibre, they’re smart enough to know not to impose too much of themselves
His touch is crisp but gentle. There’s been some ironing out, some subtle massaging, and perhaps some inspiration in terms of groove and new approaches, but Wake Up! remains true to the, admitted increasingly broad, vision of the band.
Parquet Courts are one of the best bands in the world right now, and records like Wide Awake! are a welcome reminder that they have no shortage of ideas to ensure they keep their standards high.