Parquet Courts get “woke” on their latest LP ‘Wide Awake’

words fae Ewan Blacklaw (@EwanBlacklaw)rating 9

Wide Awake is the sixth full-length studio album from the unique voices of modern punk, Parquet Courts. This newest release shows that the band have by no means run out of ideas, and continue to improve on their already impressive track record. Ever since bursting on to the alt-rock scene in 2012 with Light Up Gold, the native Texan band have been releasing a pretty consistent stream of great records, apart from a couple of stranger moments such as 2015’s Monastic Living or their more recent collaboration with Daniele Luppi. Apart from these blips in the band’s discography, Parquet Courts have produced some of the standout indie rock albums of the past few years, hitting out with a sound that no other band is currently bringing to the scene. The combination of the guitar-based stoner garage rock and the abstract song writing from the minds of Andrew Savage and Austin Brown has seen the band gain critical acclaim over the years, with much anticipation for each of their past few releases.

Since moving to Brooklyn and being signed to Rough Trade, the sound of Parquet Courts seems to have evolved from their Texan origins. On their last record, Human Performance, there seemed to be more slow moments contemplating different subject matter, showing personal growth from within the group as well as a habit of switching up musical stylings between albums. This growth has continued, and with Wide Awake they have yet again switched up their style.

While the new sound is definitely not a massive change for fans of their older material, it brings a fresh new approach to the unique sound they’ve built on so far. The new album is often driven mainly by the drums and bass, rather than by the catchy guitar hooks like on some of their earlier work. This is not to say that the album isn’t guitar heavy, as some of the most punk-influenced tracks from Parquet Courts can be found on this record. Tracks such as Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience, Normalization and NYC Observation take clear influence from 80s punk, particularly the New York scene, which makes sense considering the new setting for the band.

Wide Awake is also the most focused and concise project from Parquet Courts to date, with fewer rambling tracks that sometimes feel as if they overstay their welcome on some of the bands older albums. The subject matter and lyrics also feel like this, with less personal, small-minded issues being discussed; instead, it features more punk-influenced social commentary. The commentary doesn’t come across as whining and complaining or preaching to the listener, but rather feels like a discussion that doesn’t treat you like an idiot. The opening two tracks speak on American issues, setting the pace for the rest of the album. Topics such as national identity and gun control are touched upon in a very Parquet Courts way, infusing witty anecdotes and pop culture references to form great tracks.

In the past, some of the songwriting felt reminiscent of bands such as Pavement, but could occasionally come off as random. On this record, though, it feels that Savage and Brown have reached a new high point with their lyrics, and have found their true identity as musicians. In particular, Andrew Savage seems to take the lead on the record with his signature style but has started to decode some of his cryptic lyrical habits in order to speak out on issues, which gives the album more of a sense of purpose.

To contrast with the punk side of the album, there is also a distinct feature of funk and soul that feature more prominently than any other Parquet Courts album. Numbers like Tenderness and title track Wide Awake bring a completely new dimension to their music, which feels like yet another advancement for the band. This new side hasn’t been seen on any of the previous albums, at least not to this extent, and it really does work incredibly well. The new ‘punk and fun’ approach has allowed Parquet Courts to create their most in-depth album yet.

The commentary offered on the current state of the USA feels like a breath of fresh air to the music world, just when it seemed that it kept getting worse. The punk spirit of the album is as prominent as Andrew Savage’s brilliant songwriting and the infatuating instrumentals from the rest of the band that are about as catchy as any other album in 2018 so far. The album really doesn’t have a dull moment, which has been an issue on some of the earlier releases from the band, showing that the band just keeps on improving. Parquet Courts continue their growth and continue to impress with the latest and greatest addition to their discography.

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