What now for slacker rock? I’ve always had the feeling that Parquet Courts were late to the party. Had they appeared a few years earlier, they might have enjoyed the cultural cache and critical acclaim heaped on fellow New Yorkers The Strokes and Interpol. Then again, perhaps they’d have endured the same struggle to break free from that scene’s gravity. As it is, they’ve defiantly followed their own outsider instincts, pairing literate, savvy rock with skittish punk and fizzing guitars. Six albums in, it’s a template that’s established them as creatively restless, cerebral indie stalwarts, refashioning the past for their own ends.
The classic stoner japes of ‘Light Up Gold’ and ‘Sunbathing Animal’, chronicled with such wit by Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, always carried an edge of sarcasm, their frat-rock signifiers used as a weapon against lethargy and apathy. Savage was 24 then; he’s now 32, and like most post-thirty, socially conscious artists, he’s concluded that gentle ribbing is no longer the answer. “We are conductors of sound, heat and energy,” he hollers on opener ‘Total Football’, a rollicking romp about collective action that ends with a very pointed, “Fuck Tom Brady”.
It sets the tone of ‘Wide Awake’ nicely; anger and frustration pour out of every track, their response to living in “a hateful era of culture”. “What do I call bullshit?” Savage asks on ‘Normalization’, just one of many questions he poses. He skewers each target with a canny venom, and no-one escapes unscathed; even his own, ineffectual protestations are served up with disdain. And while produced by Danger Mouse, their music has lost none of its spark or rough charm; their best moments are still fuelled by rambling, atonal guitars and the relentless chug of Max Savage’s drums. Even their wilder songs – the carnival funk of the title track, or the Franz-Ferdinand-on-Valium breeze of ‘Back To Earth’ – sound assured, the band broadening their own horizons while never losing focus. Parquet Courts have always been adept at transcending their slacker forebearers, and ‘Wide Awake’ is yet more proof of their burgeoning legacy.
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