Saturday, April 16, 2016

Parquet Courts Human Performance & Show # 609

There’s a certain feeling one gets when late at night you look out into the city. In these late night hours people often have a mixture of emotions, deep thought and abstract thought. It is these things that people think about as their minds drift that Parquet Courts draws inspiration from for their newest album, Human Performance. The band has stated that Human Performance was inspired by “The unavoidable noise of NYC that can be maddening, the kind of the impossible struggle against clutter, whether it’s physical or mental or social”. With musical comparisons to bands such as The Velvet Underground, Pavement, The Modern Lovers and Wire, Parquet Courts have built their own blend of music that combines punk, post-punk, garage and sometimes-psychedelic influences. Lyrically, the band operates at a different level.

“Dust” opens the album with the sounds of an early city morning before a sinewy, scratchy rhythm drifts in with repetitive lyrics. The lyrics and cloudy atmosphere displayed here are combined with the words “Dust is everywhere/Sweep”, which could be in reference to an old city stuck in its own mess or a train of human thought that needs investigating. This is something that Parquet Courts delve into throughout Human Performance’s 13 tracks. “Dust” ends with what sounds like a subway train speeding up really fast before we hear the familiar sounds of busy city traffic. “Human Performance” grooves with mellow, modulating bass melodies, scratchy guitar rhythms and lyrics that are soulful and reflect on the promise of love, forgiveness, and how haunting it can be without it. These heavy lyrics show us a different type of Parquet Courts, where they are often known for their intellectual, witty lyrics, “Human Performance” has lyrics that are emotionally critical. “Outside” sung by Andrew Savage deals with his existence and mortality. This short track is further example of the band’s variety in lyrical content, while musically the song is a quick garage pop gem. It glows with a beaming, yet confused charm.

“Paraphrased” balances between heavy guitar chord structures and more mellow subdued, catchy elements. In this song Savage sings at one point “Sometimes I can’t be repeated/Sometimes I can’t be paraphrased”, he seems to be commenting on the band’s output as of late and perhaps even their craft for their music. Parquet Courts released an EP last year Monastic Living, and two albums in 2014 Sunbathing Animal and Content Nausea, under the name Parkay Quarts. With all of these releases, critics have tried to pin down the band’s sound as punk, indie rock or as the band being slackers, however, with each release the band has revealed something different. “Captive Of The Sun” reveals a more introspective outlook, as musically it reflects the bands garage influence at a simmering, mid-tempo pace. “Steady On My Mind” sung by Austin Brown showcases a slow, hazy, sound, “One Man, One City” features an off-kilter approach with bongos, while “Berlin Got Blurry” features a dusty, western styled guitar riff.

Released as one of the early singles for Human Performance, “Berlin Got Blurry” shows off the bands post-punk influences and scruffy garage dynamics with bouncy, soulful bass riffs. The song itself seems to tell disillusioned tales of human experiences ranging from frustrations with cell phone service to street food. The song taps into a feeling of humour and disgust. “Keep It Even” brings forth a country/folk approach and features guitar contribution from Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, as does the albums opening track “Dust”. A short punk blast comes in with the track “Two Dead Cops”, while “Pathos Prairie” is a song that questions self-doubt, worry and calls for a personal change amongst its raunchy stop and start garage riffs. “It’s Gonna Happen” ends Human Performance unlike any song in the band’s catalogue. Written by bassist Sean Yeaton, this song features a waltz-like beat as sweeping sounds drift in the background. This sound takes over as the album ends with a chilling nighttime air feeling. Drawing comparisons to Lou Reed and sung in a Leonard Cohen drawl, Yeaton seems to question conventions in Human Performance’s closing track.

Throughout Human Performance, Parquet Courts draw their lyrical inspirations from urban decay, human emotion and critical thoughts of self-doubt. It is here where the band achieves what people love about them the most. Their highly critical and intellectual lyrics are on par with bands such as Wire, Swells Maps, Pere Ubu, The Modern Lovers, and The Fall, among others. The music found on Human Performance also makes connections to the songs and sounds found on 2013’s Light Up Gold. It is also the complete opposite of 2015’s Monastic Living. This noisy/experimental release featured only one song with lyrics. As Parquet Courts gaze away from their thoughts that reflect a look out in New York City, they make broader strokes, finding a larger scope within their lyrical and musical grasp. With Human Performance, Parquet Courts achieve their most realized effort to date.

Saturday Night Playlist:

1. The Panasonics - Panpede
2. Crossfires - Fiberglass Jungle
3. Violent Femmes - Holy Ghost
4. Shotgun Jimmie - Triple Letter Score
5. Notta Comet - Slipstream
6. John Cale & Friends - Ghost Story (Live at the Ocean Club 1976)
7. Prehistoric Cavestrokers - Cavebangin’
8. The Real Kids - Shake Outta Control
9. Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs - Born 2 Be Abused
10. Strange Attractor - Nature Man
11. Esther Grey - Fried Blood
12. Protomartyr - Dope Cloud
13. Ramones - Ramona
14. Frank Black - I Heard Ramona Sing
15. Metros - In With The Crowd
16. Elvis Costello & The Attractions - This Year’s Girl (Alternate Eden Studios Version)
17. Tacocat - I Hate The Weekend
18. Pylon - Gravity
19. Pylon - Yo-Yo
20. B-Sides - Underground Radio Stars
21. Lounge Lizards - My Clown’s On Fire
22. Operators - Rome
23. The Radiation Flowers - Wall Of Gold
24. Bob Mould - Pray For Rain
25. DIIV - Out Of Mind
26. Young Rival - Let Me Go On
27. Parquet Courts - Paraphrased
28. Parquet Courts - Human Performance

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for April 16. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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