by Ollie Rankine
Many were slightly taken aback in November last year following exposure to Parquet Courts’ second studio EP Monastic Living. Although it was clearly audacious, the New York punk rockers’ attempt to fashion an idiosyncratic work of art was revealed to be nothing more than an experimental write-off and was consequently battered by critics across the board. With this information in mind, it’s easy to place Parquet Courts back on the shelf with the assumption their run of good fortune since the slick, slacker rock of 2012’s Light Up Gold had finally run out. However, as many polished bands have demonstrated in the past, Parquet Courts have proved their resilience by bouncing back with their most mature album to date in Human Performance.
From previous experience, we know vocalist Andrew Savage reaches his prime position when riled up and unsettled. Maybe the reception tied to Monastic Living was the vital ingredient needed to spark a sudden resurgence as Parquet Courts’ new record has reverted back to the punk-induced angst that we’re all happy to welcome with open arms. Human Performance fittingly introduces itself with highlight track ‘Dust’. The ‘PG’-rated, indie pop guitar riff slams into more familiar darkened, bass led sound. The wonderfully cartoon like thought process, “dust is everywhere / sweep” opposes the deeply textured guitar hook that surrounds it as we relish in the relief that this isn’t an attempt to unearth the spirit behind Lou Reed’s controversial Metal Machine Music. That being said, an essence of Lou Reed’s much earlier work is certainly distinguishable. ‘Steady On My Mind’s suppressed atmosphere and delicate guitar work could have easily featured on The Velvet Underground’s 1969 self-titled, folk rock classic.
One of Human Performance’s most palatable features comes short but sweet. The cyclical nature to the guitar part of third track, ‘Outside’ accompanies the rolling lyrics of acceptance in personal fault. “Dear everything I’ve ever harmed / the fault lies on my tongue” leads Savage’s open apology to his many wrong doings (Monastic Living perhaps being one…). Although ‘One Man No City’ features the unlikely addition of bongo drums, this is overshadowed by the track’s chaotic guitar showdown that totally comes into its own, with its final three minutes of unhinged soloing entirely characterising the vibe. Final track, ‘It’s Gonna Happen’ is an appropriately subdued finale. Retaining the same Lou Reed feel that appears sporadically throughout the album, the distorted vocal is not a happy one as Savage and co-vocalist Austin Brown sings us softly through the exit. Human Performance has brought Parquet Courts back down to earth and once again solidifies their place within the heart of modern punk rock. (7/10)
Listen to Human Performance here, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Andrew Savage, Austin Brown, Human Performance, Max Savage, Ollie Rankine, Parquet Courts, review, Rough Trade, Sean Yeaton
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