Brand new music from Parquet Courts, New York’s much-loved indie-punks. Human Performance is a smooth evolution of their sound, as accessible as anything they’ve yet produced, but without losing any of the edge. CD and LP editions available, with the vinyl coming in a gatefold LP with an art booklet. On Rough Trade.
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Here we are again, in the court of Parquet Courts. Okay, that didn’t work. Last time we checked in with these slackbros, they were doing their guitar music in MS Paint, scribbling their guitars in and out of places and accidentally filling the whole thing in with garish colours. It was called ‘Monastic Living’ and everyone hated it because there were no real songs, but what do you expect from this band, the New Phone Who Dis of indie rock? For diehard fans of their kinda grooving, mostly napping pop songs, ‘Human Performance’ goes back to doing the real thing: their palette has been cleansed and they are here to be enjoyable again.
There are differences. Maybe? I forget. “Dust” is a propulsive opener that sprinkles piano about as if to say “shit, the fans are coming over, get this place cleaned up”. Straight after that half-snarl vocal we’ve become accustomed to comes in with the record’s lovely title track, which yearns for the sentimental side of PC on ‘Content Nausea’ -- a guitar riff that’s low-key upset falling unwillingly into a carelessly shred chorus motivated by you singing the harmonies. With those void-echoed vocals and jarred fuzz guitars, they recall Deerhunter falling in love with “abstract” rock ideas on ‘Monomania’. But whatever they’re doing, they’re still hoping you take it along with you: there are melodies, so many of them, and with them those cosy chord sequences that make me say “slacker” when I really mean “sad sigh”.
I’m saying: maybe this is a less fun Parquet Courts record? Probably not. It’s still catchy as fuck, but I kind of like how the band are gloomily meeting dead ends here. Those bits where R.E.M. sound downbeat even as they’re swinging up -- “Outside”, and its flicked chords, sounds like that. “I Was Just Here” is a despondent tripup of grumpy riffs with a vocal that sounds like if Pixies’ Black Francis had just realised how ‘Indy Cindy’ sounded. It is angular, as they say. There are angles, and the band bump into ‘em.
As always, I like some PC bits and really don’t on the others, and the rushing mess of “Captive of the Sun” compares very little to the Lou Reed riff warble of “Steady On My Mind”, which runs at the perfect PC timing. “No Man No City” is a romp; “Pathos Praries” jumps on a chord sequence that course-corrects Razorlight. “It’s Gonna Happen” is a forgetful, interrupting acoustic ballad that recalls Alex G in its self-loathing. Here are the songs, and they’re good but I like the ones played in minor. What’s the point in straining for a narrative about Parquet Courts? All I can say is they sound like the band you want them to sound like again: catchy, refreshed, crossing a line between exciting and chill over and over and over again, with riffs that can do both at the same time.
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