Albums, Music, The Revue — April 18, 2016 at 5:00 am

Parquet Courts – “Human Performance”

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The character for the Dos Equis commercial might be “the most interesting man in the world”, but the collective of Andrew Savage, Austin Brown, Sean Yeaton, and Max Savage are unquestionably the most interesting band in all of music. Their earlier works, American Specialties and Light Up Gold, were quick bursts of blistering post-punk and garage rock with most of the songs coming in at 90 seconds or less. On their next three albums, Sunbathing Animal, Monastic Living, and Constant Nausea, the latter which they released under the moniker Parkay Quarts, they moved towards a more slacker-rock approach and the songs extended out to beyond the three-minute mark.

But don’t mistaken their sound as another band that just hangs out to jam and sing songs about youthful delights and problems. Parquet Courts are one of the most thoughtful and socially-conscious bands in the business today, but they do so in away that is both insightful and humorous at the same time. Their latest album, Human Performance, sees the Brooklyn-based quartet once again tackle the plethora of issues affecting today’s wealth and social media-driven society with their unmatched of witty perspectives while at the same time exploring new sonic depths.

The album’s opener, the catchy and rhythmic “Dust”, leads the way and perfectly exhibits the band’s allegorical style. As frontman Andrew Savage sings, “Suffocating. Suffocating. Ah, breathe! Dust is everywhere. Sweep!”, the song addresses one of Parquet Courts’ most discussed themes – that of the walls of one’s home collapsing around him as parks are replaced by high-rise buildings and one’s privacy becomes public information with social media. The ’70s-esque drone rocker “Paraphrased” further expands on the negative effects of the information age, where even the minutiae receive exposure yet people are unable to communicate and understand things beyond 140 characters.

Parquet Courts have also focused their attention on the deterioration of communities due to the same forces at work – the race to the top of Corporate America and the internet. The melodic folk-rocker “One Man, No City” brilliantly describes how in this day and age a person can be completely disconnected from everything around him. “Captive of the Sun” is immensely clever. It’s one part an ode to the chaos of New York City and another about how people are increasingly living in solitude, confined to the four walls of their home. “Two Dead Cops” is the most straightforward track on the record, and it’s one of the most powerful songs Parquet Courts has ever written. With its post-punk approach, the song is a condemnation of the culture of violence that permeates across the US, where no one, not even the police, are immune.

The band, however, do show a softer side. On “Human Performance” – the album’s highlight with its mix of the smooth rock vibes of The Velvet Underground and the sweeping psychedelia of The Doors – Savage sings emotionally about a person who changed his life and losing her. “Steady On My Mind” could be the sequel to “Human Performance”, and this intimate tune echoes Lou Reed.  “Berlin Got Blurry” is the one track where the band really lets loose and just has some fun. Combining a ’60s jitterbug rock vibe with Spaghetti Western, this fable follows a character who best could be described as Napoleon Dynamite.

The album ends with The Pavement-inspired “(Already Dead)”. Written like a eulogy, the song ties together the various themes expressed in the other thirteen tracks – where lives are lived in artificial worlds and whose best friends are not one’s neighbors but someone on the other end of the Playstation. “Experience the show of sound that is happening around you right now. Life in stereo.” These words were uttered in the ’70s yet they are just as pertinent now. And twenty, thirty, or forty years from now, we likely, too, will be replaying Parquet Courts’ excellent Human Performance and saying how this band was ahead of its time.

Human Performance is out now via Rough Trade. Purchase it at the label’s store, iTunes (US | CAN | UK), and Amazon (US | CAN | UK).

Parquet Courts are Andrew Savage (lead vocals, guitar), Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Max Savage (drums). They are currently on tour. Check their Website for dates.

Website | Facebook (Unofficial Page) | Instagram (inactive for more than a year)

 

Parquet Courts - Human Performance

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