Parquet Courts // Light Up Gold // April 22, 2013 // Mom+Pop
Unless you have more than just a passing interest in music that was dominant until the mid point of 20th century, you may think that four lads playing sloppy garage rock is the most basic music out there. This amateur rock takes out the final remains of “art” out of the music and makes it a communal experience, something to do your chores to, something to have a dance to. At this point in time, rock music is still somewhat necessary, even considering that these days you don’t even need cheap guitars to make a marketable sound. Parquet Courts, a NYC rock band, act like garage rock is still the most basic music out there and they deliver their punchy songs with enough personality to make their debut album a tiny bit more than another anonymous revivalist pastiche, just about.
Being quite proud of the fact that they’re a New York band, Parquet Courts sound a lot like you’d expect them to. There’s the not quite lo-fi approach to production which gives Light Up Gold a somewhat calculated rough and ready edge not dissimilar to Is This It. Then there’s the amateurish guitar playing and basic song structures than don’t feel the need to point out a distinct line between the verse and the chorus. And of course, don’t forget loads of attitude. Parquet Courts has tons of it and for better or worse, that’s the single factor that makes them stand out from the numerous bands doing exactly the same thing instrumentally. Master Of My Craft doesn’t ease the listener into the record as much as it throws you, the outsider, into a rectangle of old friends with their set of in jokes that are never quite explained. The vocals rant on various topics before turning their attention to you and casually dropping the album’s most iconic line “forget about it”. Ultimately, the way they treat you is more interesting than the things they’ve got to say.
Lyrically, Parquet Courts aren’t quite as interesting as these one liner moments would suggest. Sure, their lyrics are more street weary and maybe they speak to someone who spends their life sweating on some sticky floor down in Brooklyn. Otherwise, these sort of ditties are more interesting for the overall delivery because frankly, lyrically this may as well be the American version of Good Shoes for all we care. Light Up Gold’s is delivering its message across in a tidy, calculated chaos. While we already mentioned that listening to these lyrics feels like enduring a rant, the guitars splatter in the same manner. The record carries the light country influence that seems to be the thing this year. It finds that sweet middle between being just a bit off kilter and descending into self parody. However, in the long run Light Up Gold is an underwhelming record that features very little actual songwriting. The choruses are a rare occasion here, and we don’t mean as in the choruses are shit. No, a lot of these tracks actually don’t have a chorus. It’s mostly a few second loop with some sloppy riffs thrown in here and there. So when the lyrics back up this monotony of life, results are fitting. When the lyrics are beyond stupid, there’s nothing left to save the song.
Parquet Courts are basic and they know that. They sound like The Cribs if Hey Scenesters was a love letter instead of a not so subtle diss. The fifteen songs on here are derivative and other than the forced swagger, they have little to nothing going for them. This animosity translates into a sometimes charming NYC slice of rock music that is as pointless as it is topical in the IDC world. But here, we’re not heads over heels for NYC rock and sometimes a bit of what is known as songwriting is welcome too. Light Up Gold is a record that is hard to consume if you don’t own some thick rimmed glasses. It’s a record that plays its guitars with one hand while holding PBR in another. The only eccentricity it carries is the fact that it doesn’t deal with third grade poetry. Personally, I come up with better “lyrics” when I see that the bread loaf I bought three days ago has already expired. But enough about that, y’know, forget about it.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs // Mosquito // April 15, 2013 // Interscope
During the first promotional activities directed towards their 4th studio album Mosquito, Yeah Yeah Yeahs let is slip that their new sound is more rough and ready, a bit more back to the basics. Oh, if we had a (insert your local currency here) for every time a band that have lost their path have said things like that to lure their core fans back in. Then of course, we got presented the cover, a ridiculously ugly piece of 90s CGI art that is even more grotesque then the already pretty vile cover to the band’s magnum opus Fever To Tell. That was the point where we got excited. But while Mosquito is indeed a very welcome return to band’s early, abrasive sound, it spends most of its time annoyingly buzzing without a direction.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs started making sound when any band with questionable haircuts and a guitar to match it could score a record contract and a NME cover feature. YYYs announced themselves with the fierce lo-fi punk of their self titled EP. Even though they have changed their sound with each subsequent album, tracks like Art Star and Bang have sustained their presence in band’s setlists. Mosquito, during its finest moments, approach this attitude driven rock with great results. The title track in particular being one of the band’s best songs since Fever To Tell era. It makes a refreshing change from their acoustic guitar/synth stance found on Show Your Bones/It’s Blitz!. And with tracks that kick as hard as Area 52 and Buried Alive, you’d think that this return to the roots is more or less the second coming of a band that may still possess a promised chance to be bigger than the sound. This is the point where Mosquito loses its focus and continues to crash into pretty much every wall and genre that you can think of.
The opener and the first single Sacrilege was the first YYY opener that didn’t beg attention. Even with its finale featuring a gospel choir, Sacrilege is a song that attracts energy rather than pulsing it outwards. The rest of the record is similar in this approach which makes the band come across as if they are holding back their youthful energy that was prevalent on the likes of the title track. Subway is a downer featuring percussive rhythm sampled from a train track. Under The Earth applies layers upon layers of delay to the point where a rather uninspired song feels like a space rock jam. Always, which was used as a teaser, is perhaps the most misleading track on the record. Offering a light headed, dream pop take on the already hazy sounds displayed on It’s Blitz!, it’s a perfect example of the problems that Mosquito is riddled with. None of the tracks on here are actually that bad (with the klaxon heavy exception Area 52 being little more than a joke) but they seem to be hell bent on ruining each other’s flow. Lyrically, Mosquito is by far YYY’s most bullshit heavy album. They were never the best lyricists but hey, they gave the world Maps. Mosquito on the other hand is free of themes, unhinged in all the clumsiest ways. The songs lack grace and end up sounding calamitous. Then again you look at that cover of this freak and you just can’t deny that you’ve been warned months in advance.
Few good ideas with a simple but firm shape are always a safer and better choice than going all out and overpopulating your record with so many directions that it sort of begins to sound like a self-referential joke. Mosquito has way too many sounds going for it and they simply don’t segue into a full blown album that would be entertaining from start to finish. It’s more of a collection of some interesting ideas that are turned into demo versions and then left to rot. And it’s a shame because because tracks like Always pack enough blueprint material for the trio to craft and entire album out of it. From the lo-fi future pop of These Paths which kind of sounds like rock take on Purity Ring, to the cartoon punk of Buried Alive, which features a forced rap from Dr. Octagon. Let’s just say that while Mosquito isn’t quite as grotesque as its cover implies, the sounds featured here are certainly as baffling as the looks.