REVIEW: Parquet Courts – Wide Awaaaaake! (2018)

By Rich Tenor

Is it good?  
A nimble, groovy pop-indie album, weighed down by mediocre tunes and sophomoric social commentary. [3 stars]

What does it sound like?
Well-produced lo-fi rock. Ironic, monotone lead vocals with throwback harmonies. Reverb-rich, mild-crunch guitars. Bouncy, riffy, high-register bass. Moody, cheesy organ-keys. Clear, crisp, no-frills drumming.

What are the songs about?
Rebellion.  The violence around us. Media in late capitalism. Music. Political action. Relationships. How beliefs spread. The band’s career. Wokeness. Big-city apathy. The artist’s life. Privilege guilt. Our heartless times.

What works well?
The band’s clockwork tightness. The bass player’s bouncy high-register licks. The clean, big-time production. The eclecticism of style. 

What doesn’t? 
The lyrics are oblique at best, garishly unpoetic at worst. The singers preach a left-critical outlook from a woke perch on high. The political songs are bloodless lectures full of non-rhyming imperatives and declarations. There’s not a story, character, joke, or hard-won personal insight to be found.

Normalization. What am I thinking?
Immunization. Power Conditioning.
Nothing is normal
Manipulated into believing

What does it remind you of?
Minutemen. Sonic Youth. The Replacements. The Buzzcocks. Black Flag. Air. The Strokes. Talking Heads. The Magnetic Fields. Rage Against the Machine. Pixies. Faust. Wire. Modest Mouse. Cake.

What’s the story?
Parquet Courts are a four-piece rock combo from Brooklyn, with three members originally from Texas. Their second album, “Light Up Gold” (2012), made them critical lambs and minor stars. “Sunbathing Animal” (2014), the follow-up, hit #55 on the Billboard album chart.

“Wide Awaaaaake,” their sixth album, produced by pop fixer Danger Mouse for storied British post-punk label Rough Trade, is their most eclectic to date.

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