I actually first listened to Parquet Courts like 3 months ago when I saw them skyrocket up Metacritic on the back of 4 reviews – which you may notice is the minimum amount needed to register a score and cause for no small amount of frustration at seeing them illegitimately leapfrog better, more valid acts – and, at the time, I was distinctly unimpressed. I was biased, yes, but mostly unimpressed. The fact they sounded like a rougher Pavement didn’t help either. God, do I dislike Pavement.
But, it turns out that not only was its place on Metacritic totally justified, and later legitimised by other reviews, it also just so happens that I dismissed the best garage rock band since The White Stripes broke up. I’m not sure whether to call it punk or just rock, and no one else seems certain either, but if it is the former then it’s also the best punk album I’ve heard in a long, long time.
It roars out of the gates with Master of My Craft, a song loaded with crashes and hooks, shouts and spoken-word, and, most of all, enough energy to power a small country. Also, ending a song with the line ‘Socrates died in the fucking gutter’ is inexplicably brilliant to me. From that raucous opening it segues seamlessly into Borrowed Time. It carries basically the same tune but with a slight variation and it’s equally brilliant. More importantly, it also means the rollercoaster momentum that starts up the album just DOES NOT LET UP. It is head-banging/upper body convulsion inducing stuff from the get-go, powered by guitars that are just, yeah, just great. Really, really great.
The album highlight is surely Careers in Combat though, a song that’s already a shoo-in for my favourites of the year. I was already won-over by the time it came on but it was what convinced me that this album really probably did deserve to be above all that stuff. It’s like a minute long and over far, far, far, far, far too quickly. The fact it can even pack in so much in just a minute is just incredible. It’s hooky enough to put an eye out and is backed up by the kind of clever, endlessly apathetic lyrics that are dotted all over the album. If this is punk then it’s fighting for the right not to care. Which I absolutely love.
This is where I feel I should complain that the album, like Careers in Combat, is over too quickly. In reality I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it’s fine just the way it is. It’s like a series of rapid-fire explosions that are around just long enough to look cool before the fact they’re blowing everything up gets annoying. This album might lose some it’s punch if it got dragged out anymore and I can imagine the appeal depreciating rapidly over time. This isn’t an album that could sustain itself on itself. Which fits the theme I guess.
All the same the album suffers from the fact that it seems to choose the wrong songs to spin out. Careers in Combat, Borrowed Time and Light Up Gold are some of the strongest tracks but they’re over way too quickly. By contrast Stoned and Starving clocks in at 5 minutes – two minutes longer than it’s appeal warranted. Maybe those other songs are better because of their brevity, but I still can’t shake the feeling that they were just stronger at their core and could have been extended that bit more. Still, these are minor quibbles. The songs are brilliant as is, even if they’re, I dunno, tiny pure diamonds amidst a sea of larger, though rougher, ruby’s. That analogy is obviously terrible but you get the idea.
You should also hopefully have gotten the message that this is a seriously great album. It’s propulsive, it’s fun, it doesn’t have a bad track and it’s refreshing to hear some rough sounding guitars get by just on cracking out great riffs. They aren’t exactly original, there’s no doubt about that, but you wouldn’t criticise them for being derivative either. These are solid gold variations on familiar sounds – and, really, the vocal performance(another high point) is pretty unique in how it throws together about 5 styles per song; one second it’s spoken word, the next it’s a rapid fire splurge of words and the next it’s just, you know, singing. It works anyway. Like everything else
*You may have noticed that an A does not fit on the 5 star scale, you are correct, it does not. That’s because I’ve ditched that. It’s too mainstream. Letters, they’re the future.*