Parquet Courts – ‘Monastic Living’ EP

New York punks stall with a deliberately awkward EP that's often unlistenable

If you’re a bloody-minded artist of a certain stripe, success – even critical success, the kind you can’t take to the bank – can be a bitch. So it is with Parquet Courts. Their second album, 2012’s ‘Light Up Gold’, was a DIY triumph, a fusion of scuzzy shamble-rock and arch songcraft that saw the Texas-via-Brooklyn group compared favorably to Pavement and The Strokes. Were they happy about it? Not particularly. Interviews veered prickly or inscrutable, and while they struck gold again with last year’s ‘Sunbathing Animal’, more recent music released under their pseudonym, Parkay Quarts, has indicated a band keen to thumb their nose at the notion of success and get weird.

Which brings us to ‘Monastic Living’. It’s sold as an EP, although at nine tracks in length, it’s a long one. Songs clock in about 90 seconds long, or sprawl to around six or seven minutes. Oh yeah, and apart from the first track – a blare of gnarly guitars and barked negativity entitled ‘No, No, No!’ – there are no vocals. Instead, we have brief instrumentals called things like ‘Elegy Of Colonial Suffering’ and ‘Frog Pond Plop’ that sound like the freeform meltdown segments of Sonic Youth concerts, plus a couple of rather aimless six-minute tracks titled ‘Monastic Living’ built around autistic guitar and organ repetitions. That the most promising song – a leering swagger going by the name of ‘Alms For The Poor’ – is faded out after 46 seconds feels par for the course.

It feels wrong to castigate ‘Monastic Living’ for not being rammed with catchy, angular indie-rock songs, as that’s evidently not what it’s trying to do.
The EP’s obstructive qualities even extend to the cover art, a hand-scrawled, queerly spelt statement from co-frontman Andrew Savage that seems to reject the artist’s lot entirely: ‘I don’t want tabee calda poet/I don’ twantew hang in a museum…’ Still, there have been more enjoyable artistic fuck-yous than this – Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’, for example – and while ‘Monastic Living’ might say something profound about this awkward, enigmatic band, if you’re out to explore Parquet Courts for the first time, the facts are plain: you should pick any record rather than this.