Label: Rough Trade Records
Released: 18th May 2018
The pairing of Danger Mouse and Parquet Courts at first glance seems like chalk and cheese. The former specialises in tight production, every second of a track meticulously arranged and polished. The latter prefer to keep things loose and fancy-free; inspired by hardcore punk and bringing a cheeky yet politicised sense of humour to the party.
But, like an immaculately plated Eton Mess, on Parquet Courts’ fifth album ‘Wide Awake!’ it just works. After all, Parquet Courts aren’t a band that is want to follow the status quo. As they sang on “American Specialties” back at the band’s beginning, “Music matters more than ever / Free yourself and conform never.”
Just when you think you’ve nailed Parquet Courts down, they surprise you. ‘Wide Awake!’ sees the band almost shunning their Pavement influences, so heavily present on Sunbathing Animal, for something more akin to Cake. Bass driven grooves with the odd blistering riff accompany Andrew Savage’s dry, monotonous drawl this time around.
The first few tracks feel like a return to the Parquet Courts of old after the largely mellow ‘Human Performance’. ‘Violence’ sees Savage really letting loose. It feels like a man spilling out every single stoned thought about society he’s ever had over the course of 4 minutes. It seems like you’re about to get something intense and somewhat serious, but still quite anthemic.
That is until an odd choppy groove lands slap in the middle of ‘Normalization’; Danger Mouse’s fingerprints finally showing and the band shaking loose a little. What follows is a collision of silliness and rage, a vicious takedown of society over hyperactive grooves that make you want to dance.
Savage’s laconic wit, which has marked him out as one of the most exciting songwriters of this generation, is what makes this collision work across ‘Wide Awake!’. He isn’t concerned with the nihilistic attitude that has become rampant in recent years as things have started to become more pointless. Savage is more about trying to channel anger into bringing people together, all with a wry smile and a cheeky wink.
Whether he’s having a children’s choir sing “death will bring change” on the track of the same name, taking a pop at people trying to manufacture personal essays on ‘Extinction’ (“Sabotage your life just to find something to write about”) or screaming “Fuck Tom Brady” at the end of ‘Total Football’, it’s a joy to listen to him do what he does best.
‘Wide Awake!’, then, is as odd, ferocious and funny as anything that‘s come before. Those who prefer the Parquet Courts that fly by the seat of their pants, giving zero fucks as to whether the songs “sound good”, might be a bit disappointed. But it’s hard to be in a dour mood around these funky, punky treats. Chris Taylor