Aug. 26 – Sept. 1st
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (2018)
“Fuck Tom Brady!” is what Andrew Savage, Parquet Courts frontman, screams at the end of the opening track for his group’s ridiculously excellent new album, “Wide Awake!.” Even if I love the GOAT of football, hearing the anger and intensity in that lyric excites me. It is incredible that there are some bands who are not afraid to take on authority and call attention to our current issues.
Indie rock and post-punk outfit, Parquet Courts, are the best band playing music today. They blend the indie rock style of Pavement, alongside the attitude of the Clash and other classic punk rock bands. On their previous release in 2016, “Human Performance,” the group went for a more mature, but aggressive and uneasy sound that showcased the group reaching their ultimate style of music. On their latest release this past May, Parquet Courts tackle their rage and angst with funky hooks and angry verses, which makes the incredible release sound like an encouraging protest album towards the current administration.
Working with producer, Danger Mouse, best known for working with Cee-Lo Green in the soul duo, Gnarls Barkley, Parquet Courts wanted to step out of their comfort zone. Danger Mouse has shown how worthy he is at being a diverse producer by working in various genres and producing some of the best albums last decade (i.e. Gorillaz’s “Demon Days” and Beck’s “Modern Guilt”). Usually Danger Mouse is known for altering and influencing the sound of artists he works with, however, to have the opportunity collaborate Parquet Courts, Danger Mouse had to seek them out. He considered himself a fan and instead of guiding them, Danger Mouse served more as a wise observer in the studio, only questioning and offering small advice.
Parquet Courts and Danger Mouse recorded mostly in the desert, even though they are both associated with New York City. The group wanted to maintain their style, but experiment, which can definitely be heard on the psychedelic ambient synth track “Back to Earth.” On the reggae-dub driven, “Before the Water Gets Too High,” frontman, Andrew Savage, plays a gloomy omnichord, which is an electronic instrument, underlying the apocalyptic lyrics and drifting bass line. They also blended the opposing genres of funk and punk on the title track, where there are literally no verses, only a chorus. This is similar to what many hardcore California punk bands did in the early eighties or what soccer crowds were doing during the 2018 World Cup. There is a strong groove, including a standard funk riff and a typical agogo bell pattern, that is similar to what Talking Heads recorded on “Pull Up the Roots.” My personal favorite track, “NYC Observation,” also takes from the new wave era, with the tone and keys giving a nod to the killer riff on Devo’s “Praying Hands.” Later, the track transitions into the extremely Ramones-esque “Extinction.” A. Savage’s vocals are squally like Joe Strummer’s from the Clash, over a dancy quick-paced riff.
Singing about American savagery on “Violence” and acceptance in “Normalization,” at their artistic peak, Parquet Courts is incredibly pissed. Aside from all the anger and intensity, however, there are still some warm and optimistic ballads on “Wide Awake!,” similar to the ones on “Human Performance.” “Freebird 2” serves as a sequel to “Berlin Got Blurry,” while “Mardi Gras Beads” has a feeling of alternative country and mellowness, but with a climatic guitar riff like Pavement’s “Range Life” or “Father to a Sister of Thought.” On “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience,” A. Savage sounds like he wants to punch every radical right-wing leaning motherfucker, like white supremacist, Richard Spencer. The incredible word painting with the ascending choppy guitar riffs, paints a picture of a chaotic altercation.
The album ends with a bit of gentleness, with the upbeat bubblegum pop “Tenderness.” With a piano and a choppy disco-esque riff, A. Savage’s raspy vocals are promising and optimistic, corresponding to the opening track, “Total Football,” but less assertive. Optimism is the main theme explored throughout the album, as it is explored from beginning to end.
Parquet Courts have definitely been releasing consistent albums over the decade, but this by far is their best. In a new artistic direction, that implements experimental punk, disco, garage rock, and much more, Parquet Courts have expanded all the sounds that made the beloved band they are, while bringing in some new sounds which makes them even better.
On “Wide Awake!,” Parquet Courts reminds us to not be distracted from our current affairs. If you are not familiar with the group or their latest album, just go listen to it already. It may serve you well whether you are marching or dancing in the ugly world we live in.
Listen to Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake! below.