Parquet Courts have blazed a reliable path throughout their seven studio albums so far, but the element of spontaneity has never left as they’ve pushed their sizzling indie-punk forward. From the frantic fuzz of ‘Sunbathing Animal’ to the groove-heavy colour of ‘Wide Awake!’, they’ve emerged head and shoulders above any arty guitar-wielding contemporaries on their turf.
The band show no signs of breaking stride on ‘Sympathy For Life’. Opening banger ‘Walking At A Downtown Pace’ is the most Parquet Courts they’ve ever sounded. Over an insatiable, pent-up groove, frontman Andrew Savage absently delivers a stoner line to unite the masses: “And how many ways of feeling lousy have I found?” They’re thrillingly loose as a guitar shreds out a track-long solo.
You’re not sure where they’re hurtling next as the choppy fuzz of ‘Black Widow Spider’ arrives, but they keep the pace, with their signature cheap distorted guitar tones crafting a squelchy base for more of Savage’s beguiling delivery: “I go out to a movie in the city, man / I can’t seem to shake off a mood / I like to watch an actor and act like them / Pretend I’m a different dude”.
After two anthems guaranteed to fill sticky dancefloors, the band find room for experimentation. ‘Marathon Of Anger’ provides a respite from the rampant and scrappy groove they’ve mastered; it’s a compellingly robotic lo-fi muck-about that Savage grabs the and steers deep into Talking Heads territory, channelling his inner ‘Slippery People’-era David Byrne. There’s a total sense of creative liberation and self-expression on show.
The further in you get, the clearer it becomes that Parquet Courts are readily dancing to a different tune this time around. ‘Plant Life’ and ‘Application Apparatus’ come as experimental jams that pack shades of an acid-washed exploration of Primal Scream‘s seminal ‘Screamadelica’. They’re not in a rush to get anywhere, but it makes a whole lot of sense that guitarist Austin Brown has said that improvisation is at the heart of it all.
It’s not long before Parquet Courts return to loaded and punchy territory, though. The angsty garage-rock of ‘Homo Sapien’ could have easily slotted into their triumphant 2016 album ‘Human Performance’, all big, shouty vocals and sprawling guitar lines. There’s really something for everyone here; they embrace winning ways but also dive into new realms too. Many bands have chartered these waters before, but nobody does it like Parquet Courts.
Release date: October 22
Record label: Rough Trade