The hardest-working so-called slackers in indie rock are back already, with fresh tricks and further proof of greatness
Parquet Courts are surfing a helluva wave right now. At the start of 2013 we knew absolutely nothing about them. Ten months later, the four twenty-somethings – brothers Max and Andrew Savage plus Austin Brown and Sean Yeaton – are the best new band in Brooklyn. It all began with the two-chord howls and whip-smart lyrics on January’s ‘Light Up Gold’ album, one of the year’s most addictive listens. Since then the quartet have completely blown SXSW away, come to the UK for their first ever shows outside of America, got wasted on Special Brew in London and pulled big audiences at the Reading and Leeds Festivals while barely cracking a smile. Most bands would look ungrateful. Parquet Courts just looked fucking cool.
Their aesthetic might be slacker, but the band have a ruthless work ethic, so it’s no surprise they’re back already with five new songs, handed over like an ice-cold can to quench the thirst of fans who have sucked ‘Light Up Gold’ dry.
‘Tally All The Things That You Broke’ delivers thrills both familiar and new. As befits a band who have spent most of the year squeezed into the back of a van and sleeping on floors, it’s not a particularly coherent, well-planned piece of art. It’s a collection that captures the yin and yang at the heart of what makes Parquet Courts so magnetic.
Take opening track ‘You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now’. Guitars rattle and hum as frontman Andrew Savage sings: “I thought I knew a thing or two about the blues/But you’ve got me wonderin’ now”. The song lands halfway between a ’50s crooner number and Pavement guitarist Spiral Stairs’ finest moments. If songs like this were all Parquet Courts did, radio stations would A-list them tomorrow. But as those who have seen them stare out unresponsive audiences or turn their nippiest songs into 10-and-a-half-minute epics know, Parquet Courts don’t make things easy for people. As such, ‘You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now’ is accompanied by the sound of a recorder, as if a nine year-old girl got lost on her way to assembly and wound up in the recording studio.
Elsewhere, ‘He’s Seeing Paths’ is Parquet Courts’ most challenging and demanding moment to date. Closing the EP, it runs to over seven minutes long and is told from the perspective of Savage as he wanders the streets of New York, through Chinatown and over the bridge, his “eyes going side to side, scanning for haters” over a minimal looped beat that pushes the band away from their lo-fi sound and closer to the Beastie Boys or Beck. Repetitive and monotonous, it’s one of the most uncomfortable listens on the EP, but encapsulates what makes Parquet Courts stand out from bands who think posing with a skateboard and writing songs about weed is enough to get by.
Between these two bookends, ‘Tally All The Things…’ offers three songs similar in style to ‘Light Up Gold’. On ‘Descend (The Way)’, co-guitarist and vocalist Austin Brown takes part in a race to the bottom of a pint glass in a catchy ode to drinking. “When you see the bottom, you’ve got enough”, he chants as guitars charge around him and build to a thrilling finale. ‘Fall On Yr Face’, meanwhile, will do nothing to stop Parquet Courts being compared to The Fall. With a ranted stream of consciousness rattled out like gunfire with a drunk’s finger on the trigger, the song couldn’t be any more Mark E Smith if it gave an awkward interview and sacked a guitarist for the third time in a week. But a whiff of unoriginality aside, what this EP offers Parquet Courts addicts is fresh meat to chew on, signs of innovation and further evidence that these New Yorkers are one of the world’s most essential new bands.