Parquet Courts’ Casual Brilliance Continues on ‘Human Performance’
“I had the rare good fortune to talk to the Captain recently about his music, and noted that I hadn’t really understood Trout Mask Replica. ‘That’s okay,’ he said, ‘just put it on and then go back to doing whatever it was you were doing and it’ll come to you.’ Well, what I was doing was sweeping the floor, so I had my doubts, but I did it anyhow. Damned if it didn’t push the broom.”—Ed Ward in The Rolling Stone Record Review Volume II, 1970
Greg Kot and I tackled Human Performance, the fifth album from New York-via-Texas art-rockers Parquet Courts, a few weeks back on Sound Opinions. But I’m remiss in sharing some thoughts about it here, especially because I just can’t stop playing it.
The four band members often are wrongly written off as slackers, which is easy to understand, from their ode to blissed-out Swedish Fish-munching (“Stoned and Starving” on their 2012 breakthrough Light Up Gold) to “Dust,” the lead track on the new one, and no doubt the best song ever about sweeping one’s apartment. But it actually takes a tremendous amount of work and a whole lot of good taste to make music that seems so casual and simple, but which really is anything but. And as the classic Ed Ward quote above indicates re: Captain Beefheart’s masterpiece, the results can be magical.
Parquet Courts doesn’t fundamentally alter the sound they first introduced on a D.I.Y. cassette in 2011; there’s some jaunty piano and droning organ this time around, but the basic formula remains: propulsive subway-train rhythms, laidback-to-falling over vocals about, well, nothing much (except maybe when they are, if we consider the hints about the difficulties of finding true loe), and most of all the snaking, intertwining, ever-insinuating dual guitars of Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, who here solidify themselves as the most convincing heirs to the Verlaine/Lloyd Television tradition since Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan in Dumptruck during the indie-rock ’80s.
And yeah, they really are that good. Witness for yourself.
Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade)
Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.