Album Review: Parquet Courts – ‘Wide Awake!’

Karibu Staff Music, Reviews

Is Parquet Courts’ sixth full-length album really deserving of its garish exclamation mark?

In a busy eight years since formation, Parquet Courts have now released six albums, two EPs, and a collaborative album with Italian composer Daniele Luppi. As impressive as this may be, consistency will only get you so far. Wide Awake! really needs to pack a creative punch to propel Parquet Courts from just-another-indie-band to the public consciousness.

And it fails to do so.

Total Football kicks off – no pun intended – the album in immediate style. The comparison to The Strokes is obvious, with crunchy guitars and mobile, melodic basslines driven by a primitive drum beats.

Rambling lyrics never quite deliver a satisfying chorus, however, and although frontman A. Savage’s voice winds the track up into a chorus of gang vocals, all momentum is lost in Total Football’s tapering outro.

Violence follows, trading off a hammy keyboard riff which goes nowhere into sub-Gang of Four post-punk, the woozy Before The Water Gets Too High equally as forgettable. Before it the record really gets started, it finds itself in a rut that it struggles to shake itself out of, delivering track after track of filler.

Wide Awake!’s overall impression is a post punk mismatch (the shouty samba title track’s most recognisable suit is its party whistles) which has few discernible riffs and even fewer upward or downward blips. Freebird II, although lyrically plumbing emotional depths that explore complex family life, is desperately monotone in terms of texture. It’s a shame, because what a song title that is.

Spikey single Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience is probably the highlight, with its stop-start structure and playful drum fills at least sounding unique on an album that sounds anything but.

parquet courts

Despite their obvious enthusiasm for their profession, Parquet Courts are ultimately 21st century indie landfill whose songs you would struggle to hum after their album finishes. Wide Awake! is just another example of this.

I listened to the whole album multiple times with the same neutral expression on my face. Hence – if you’ve skipped ahead to the score and come back to work out my reasoning – the completely neutral rating. Listening to Wide Awake! is simply an exercise in letting one track bleed into the next until it ends.

If music is meant to make you feel something, it’s fairly remarkable that I felt literally nothing listening to Parquet Courts. That’s not an emotion I’m used to feeling with music. I don’t have any prior dislike or prejudices about the music or its performers. Yet I didn’t feel challenged, I didn’t feel inspired, and I certainly didn’t feel uplifted.

It says a lot about the state of guitar music today that Parquet Courts have been held up in some quarters as one of the most vital bands in the world. If all an act has to do to earn that tag is carry an interesting visual style in their album artwork and promise cod-intellectualism in their lyrics, it’s no surprise that guitar music is dying.

David Hall

Score: 5/10

For fans of: Glass Animals, The Strokes, Radio 4

Standout tracks: Total Football, Wide Awake

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