Parquet Courts: Wide Awake review – indie heroes bring in Danger Mouse

(Rough Trade)

If the ballad-heavy Human Performance (2016) found New York’s Parquet Courts finally starting to cast off their lo-fi trappings, then the follow-up, their sixth album, takes their shuffle into commercialism several steps further by bringing in Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton as producer. Musically, it’s easily their most expansive set to date, with squally punk (Total Football) rubbing up against 60s bubblegum pop (Mardi Gras Beads), woozy psychedelia (Back to Earth) and the clattering early-00s punk-funk of Wide Awake.

The most pronounced influence, however, is the Minutemen, who in the early 1980s overturned hardcore punk orthodoxy by placing bass, rather than guitar, at the centre of their sound and dabbling in jazz and funk stylings. Indeed, on Violence and NYC Observation in particular, the hollered vocals even recall those of the late D Boon. Lyrically, meanwhile, our tumultuous times have evidently proved an inspiration, as themes of climate change, gun violence and general disquiet abound. But for all the po-faced worthiness of lines such as “collectivism and autonomy are not mutually exclusive”, there are undercurrents of absurdist, tangential humour here, too – and a blunt rejection of Trump-endorsing jock Tom Brady. Wide Awake! might be too scattershot to appeal to a much wider audience, but it does cement Parquet Courts’ position as one of US indie’s more intriguing outliers.

Watch Parquet Courts performing Total Football.

Contributor

Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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