It was in the sedate-sounding surroundings of The University of North Texas at a record listening club that one of New York’s noisiest exports was first spawned.
Andrew Savage was the host at the grandly titled “Knights of the Round Table” Record Club and there he met Austin Brown, an unassuming fellow music fan, and someone looking to find like-minded souls. Before long, the two had struck a musical partnership, and into a fledgling band came Max Savage, Andrew’s younger brother, and Sean Yeaton, a bass player from Boston who met Savage in New York.
After a period of playing small gigs, Parquet Courts found a club that would let them play, started a residency in front of fifty people and made a debut album, released on cassette, which means it has only been heard by hipsters and people who own cars more than twelve years old.
The band captured attention a couple of years ago when their second album “Light Up Gold” blazed out of the traps, like a fully formed beast of snarling guitar and canny, smart lyrics. When I caught them at Glastonbury in 2014 on the Park Stage they were a well oiled machine, and New York’s Next Big Thing.
Follow up “Sunbathing Animal” continued the momentum and hit number 55 on the Billboard charts, whilst a fourth album, Content Nausea featured half the band and confused people, especially after a previous single was released under the “Parkay Quarts” banner. Who was in the band? How did this all work? It was all getting complicated, but it’s just a symptom of creativity.
So fifth and latest album “Human Performance” is once again a fully collaborative piece recorded in New York at Dreamland Studios where the band lived whilst making the album.
“I imagine it’s what recording The White Album would’ve been like” Andrew Savage told Spin, “except the whole band was getting along and nobody’s girlfriend was there.”
They are pretty sharp with words, are Parquet Courts. Previous albums have covered cerebral subjects such as war and unemployment (Careers in Combat) and the less cerebral, such as needing a snack late at night after over-indulging (“Stoned and Starving”).
Human Performance contains new themes, including (gasp) love songs such as the lovely “Steady on my Mind”. As a result the album has light and shade, and musically feels richer for it.
“Berlin Got Blurry” has a lovely spaghetti western riff from singer/ guitarist Andrew Savage and “One Man No City” plays with an eight mile high blur of guitar – whilst also sounding like a discourse on life. Indeed at tonight’s Rough Trade East show singer and guitarist Austin Brown holds court whilst relating the song, like he’s conversing with us.
In London to play to a bedraggled, soggy and generally overly moist forty thousand people at the Field Day festival in Hackney at the weekend, the band took time out to brighten our Monday evening in the dry, warm and loving walls of Rough Trade East to showcase the new album.
Dedicating the set to those who lost their lives in Orlando, Savage kicked off with metronomic album opener “Dust”, and together the band proceeded to play all but one song from Human Performance.
The guitars switch from clean and jangly to indie-angular, then punky and angry. During “Berlin Got Buzzy” there’s even time for a wig out. It’s quite a thing to witness the power of songs like “Two Dead Cops” and “Human Performance” from a band three feet in front of you.
The new album is another progression from the now classic “Light Up Gold”. It’s a more mature record than “Sunbathing Animals”. Parquet Courts are quietly building up an impressive body of work. You should go see them before they are too big to play wonderful in-store gigs like these.
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