Parkay Quarts – ‘Content Nausea’

NYC's Parquet Courts - minus the rhythm section - adopt an alter ego and push their sound into wilder territory

Who are Parkay Quarts and what have they done with the real Parquet Courts? Featuring half of the New York quartet’s regular lineup (drummer Max Savage and bassist Sean Yeaton are absent, completing a maths degree and starting a family, respectively), they describe this incarnation as an “alter ego”, and that feels about right. This collection – released less than six months after third album ‘Sunbathing Animal’ and recorded, mixed and mastered in two weeks – takes ideas expressed and hinted at on their previous releases, and follows them somewhere altogether freakier.

Primarily the work of guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, with guest musicians including Jackie-O Motherfucker’s Jef Brown on saxophone and Eaters’ Bob Jones on the fiddle, ‘Content Nausea’ sounds like a sonic playground where the duo able to indulge some of their wilder impulses. The Brooklyn band have previous here: in 2013, less than a year after their second, breakthrough album ‘Light Up Gold’, they released the five-track ‘Tally All The Things That You Broke’ EP under this homophonic moniker, experimenting with a more expansive sound (the songs on ‘Light Up Gold’ were msotly two minutes or less of short, sharp indie-rock).

Picking up where ‘Tally…’ left off – on seven-minute opus ‘He’s Seeing Paths’, which featured a loop of a telephone ringing – we find them in experimental mood on opener ‘Every Day It Starts’, a paranoid lament about sleep deprivation. The title track, too, is weird and wired, racing from double-speed guitar-pop into snail’s pace white noise, with a spoken-word monologue over the top, and back again. They play it rather straighter on ‘Slide Machine’, a relaxed cover of Texan psych kings The 13th Floor Elevators, with its spidery guitar lines sitting fairly comfortably alongside their previous work, but the other cover on this mini-album is altogether more noteworthy: a sax-tastic take on Nancy Sinatra’s Lee Hazlewood-penned ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (“a karaoke favourite” of Savage’s), which stays just the right side of Mark Ronson territory by virtue of the wanton feedback jammed into the instrumental break.

Really, though, what’s most intriguing about ‘Content Nausea’ is listening for possible signposts as to where the next ‘proper’ Parquet Courts record might be headed. If ‘Pretty Machines’ is any indication, they’re setting their sights on showing us Brits how to do Britpop. Built on a classic, chugging riff that could be a distant, transatlantic cousin of Blur’s ‘Coffee & TV’, it’s musically the most straightforward song here but also lyrically the most dextrous, with Savage delivering a sprawling treatise on NYC’s rampant consumerist culture. The transition from that into ‘Psycho Structures’, with its droning, industrial keys and drum machine, and ‘The Map’, channelling both Silver Apples and the Velvets at their most experimental, is a hard, jarring turn towards leftfield electronica that, while probably a red herring in terms of future direction, is a fascinating diversion all the same. More likely to harbour clues, perhaps, is ‘Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth’, a tune that originally dates back to Savage’s old band Teenage Cool Kids. Featuring organs that recall Al Kooper’s famously improvised lines on Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and some equally grandiose lyrical sentiment, it’s a closing reminder that, even when they’re only messing around, Parkay Quarts still mean serious business.

Rob Webb