4/15/16 – Paradise Rock Club

 

Two years ago Parquet Courts played a house show in Somerville unceremoniously shut down by the police. Now they play to a sold out Paradise.

Denton, Texas born Parquet Courts has charted a Fugazi-like rise for itself in the indie music world. Without compromising values, with nothing but hard work and ceaseless touring, Parquet Courts has risen through the ranks. (The somewhat ascetic Andrew Savage on vocals and guitar not far off from the curmudgeonly Ian Mackaye.) In doing so, they have reasserted that rock music can still be a mode of cultural criticism, profound expression, and high art. And it can still do this with guitars.

As punk as this all may be, when they took to the uncomfortable Paradise stage – flanked by those pesky toilet plunger-esque columns – they were dressed in the shabby, business casual of Ian Curtis rather than as bohemian rock n’ roll saviors. Savage looked physically unable to smile, while Austin Brown, who shares vocal and guitar duties with Savage, wore a beige coat and dumb hat derided by the crowd (“Indiana Jones on Guitar!” “We love you but we hate your hat!”).      

In spite of their look – or maybe all the more because of it – Parquet Courts is a rock snob’s dream. They seamlessly combine disparate threads of musical esoterica in ways few bands can: the percussion and repetitive ostinatos of Faust, the brevity of Wire, the verbosity of The Fall, the noise of Sonic Youth, and particularly on their most recent release, the composition and New York bona fides of Television.   

The show opener, “Sunbathing Animal,” combined the pace of hardcore, the cut-time mechanic drumming of krautrock and post-punk, and that southern je ne sais quoi. Next, the exceedingly banal “Dust,”  with an uncharacteristically simple chorus  – “Dust is everywhere…sweep” – became more spirited live, with tight gang vocals. “Dust” marks a significant departure from what has been perhaps the most wordy band in rock. With such simple if not meaningless lyrics, Parquet Courts has perhaps become more accessible.

But Savage still had moments of mechanically rapid vocal delivery. At times it was unintelligible gibberish, but there seemed to be a tacit consensus in the audience: whatever he is saying, it probably is really, really smart. And it usually is. Like the incredible “Content Nausea,” the title track from their release as Parkay Quartz, an ode to modern digital anxiety that asks the Zizekian question, “And am I under some spell? And do my thoughts belong to me? Or just some slogan I ingested to save time?”

As Savage stood at the mic, simultaneously self-searching and professorial, he swung his guitar like a pendulum faster and faster to match the ever increasing pace of his vocal delivery. Brown hung his hat from the mic stand retreating to his amp to produce rounds of feedback and noise. Savage sang on – ”And this would be a good year to free poets from the backpadding dungeons of content and comments” – and with each proclamation spit from his mouth was illuminated by the purple lights behind.

Savage’s austerity borders on self-importance – he acts as if his music is significant, as if what he has to say should be listened to. And usually it should.

As a young dude crowdsurfed through the combination of college bros and middle aged men (dear God there were men for miles) Savage looked on entirely unamused. For someone capable of lyrics so human and incisive, his physical presence was strikingly mechanical and cold. Sean Yeaton, the Boston native on bass, tried to make up for it, taking over most of the banter responsibilities. The effect was one of distant genius (Savage) tempered by jocular and relatable side-kick (Yeaton).

But ultimately, this was a night about the music. “Stoned and Starving,” with it’s incessant groove and atonal, rhythmic guitar solo showed the solo isn’t dead, but may have taken new shape. “Borrowed Time,” which seamlessly followed “Master of My Craft,” inspired the youngsters in front to batter their bodies together, and everybody else to nod rhythmically, as if in vigorous affirmation of Savage’s assertion – “I’m master of my craft!”

Masters of Their Craft: Parquet Courts
Pros
  • Tight, rehearsed performance
  • Brilliant lyricism
  • Rock snob approved infuences
Cons
  • Slightly awkward, austere presence
8.9Overall Score

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