Andrew Savage doesn’t keep you waiting long for his first snarl. Just under a minute into ‘Total Football’, the taut opener on Parquet Courts’ sixth album, the meandering bassline drops away to afford Savage’s scream more space. “Are you quite done now?”
It’s immediately clear that Parquet Courts aren’t done now, not by a long chalk. Based in Brooklyn, Savage and his bandmates – guitarist and fellow songwriter Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton and Savage’s younger brother Max on drums – have been releasing excellent punk-rock records defined by venom, groove and lyrics that make you wish you read more books since their 2011 debut ‘American Specialties’.
If 2012’s ‘Light Up Gold’ woke the world up to a group that many touted as the latest answer to The Strokes, ‘Wide Awake!’ is an indelible underlining of their status as one of the most important bands in the world right now. Before we continue, a mildly surprising fact: this record was produced by 19-time Grammy nominee Danger Mouse, whose CV includes The Black Keys, A$AP Rocky, Norah Jones. Far from softening Parquet Courts’ edges, he has enhanced everything that makes the quartet great – sound, imagination, style. The Beastie Boys, Black Flag and Talking Heads are all here in spirit.
‘Violence’ is the first standout, a mazy, bassy call to arms. Like many of Parquet Courts’ best songs, it functions as an alarm clock, a cattle prod. “Violence is daily life,” they chant, Savage considering the “pornographic spectacle of black death” that is the human condition. But the frontman is there for the listener too, offering us his hand as he spits, “Savage is my name because Savage is how I feel… My name belongs to us all… My name is a threat”.
This band have long articulated the inertia of acclimatising to adult life, and ‘In And Out Of Patience’ – a classic Parquet number – does so almost flippantly. “I’m neither here nor there,” muses Savage. It’s there again on the breakneck ‘Extinction’, Savage poking fun at his daily existence (“I’m trying not to turn into a psychopath”) over impatient guitars.
Austin Brown’s contributions (‘Mardi Gras Beads’’ dreamy textures, the spacey, desperate ‘Back To Earth’, maudlin jam ‘Death Will Bring Change’) take their time with their introspection, but cut just as hard. By the time the record spins through the pepped-up ‘Freebird II’, the irresistible carnival feel of the title-track and the piano-driven stomp of closer ‘Tenderness’, you’re left winded by its brilliance.
Parquet Courts are a magical band that make you feel everything all at once: youth, nostalgia, happiness, desolation, flying high, running low. The record’s last line, then, is fitting, Savage calling for “the fix of a little tenderness”. But where would the thrill be in that?