Content Nausea is the second release of 2014 from Parquet Courts. Issued under a slightly different name (Parkay Quarts) due to some of the band members completing degrees and starting families, it hints at sounds akin to the likes of Dylan and Warren Zevon, and is the inevitable aftermath of Sunbathing Animal – accessible but more dissonant than ever.
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Indie rock has never stopped looking towards the dusty, gnarly South. Silver Jews have checked in, Deerhunter have made cow-punk, and as the genre waxed and waned and entered a new millennium, local bands turned up. Maybe it’s because new, disorientating surroundings are what make for a real rock record: New Yorkers Parquet Courts (that's Parqay Quarts, these days) sound like they need the Southern States to stay humble, pointing arrows in and out of its towns and creasing roads ‘til they’re dizzy, lost and happy to be roaming.
Much like Deerhunter releasing their most proudly rock ‘n’ roll record, ‘Monomania’, after a straight run of indie rock crowning jewels, ‘Content Nausea’ serves as a laid back rendition of an accomplished band who are already known as the kings of abandon. It’s a victory lap, reaching further and more indulgently into the great American sound that Parquet Courts have absorbed and could now lead seminars in. The guitars are even looser than on ‘Sunbathing Animal’ -- chords strummed with reminiscence for the snarling, indie version of Americana developed by Silver Jews and Pavement -- leading the way for repetitive, snaking riffs that curl in and out of songs with little care for the world. The modest guitar changeovers in “Pretty Machines” provide the soundtrack for swapping jeans for trackies at the end of a long day, with solos for bedtime listening and quiet comfort.
Listening to “Pretty Machines”, it’s easy to get a sense of Parquet Courts’ newfound influences. The comparisons to Bob Dylan and the beat poetry generation he flirted with seem cheap, at first, but he exists in their sound: the lethargic, endlessly strummed chords act as a backbone for songs of lyrical improvisations and little melodic additives, such as the sparse sax that the tune segues into. The record’s magnificent closer -- a song so good it’s made me revisit this record tirelessly, despite hating it pretty much up until the moment I reviewed it -- is written in blank verse, cutting out choruses and cheap tricks and rolling through the same chord sequence ‘til death does us and the band apart. “Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth” is basically “Instant Disassembly” written around a Western myth rather than a sick riff, and it sounds all the better for it: it’s sadder, more introspective and its catchiness feels contingent on songwriting, not indie rock bait. It’s a shitty cliche, but that there is their “Desolation Row”. For now.
The name change and 50% band member turnout may stand against ‘Content Nausea’, but it’s full of the same tricks, the same jaunted sleight of hand -- they're just divided up between half the slackers and a couple new friends. The barn-burners and spoken word punx treatises remain, and will still aggravate to the same degree -- if you’d rather hear a good indie rock song than a smirked sermon about one, Parquet Courts are a hard band to deal with. But this is yet another record that reminds me of how much this band pour into every lazy tune and lyrical nugget. To their credit -- especially in a genre where they should sound like every band they’re ripping off, or at least like Stephen Malkmus -- there’s no one who makes music like Parqay Quarts.
Except Parquet Courts.
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