Label: Rough Trade Records
Released: 22nd October 2021
In the absence of clubs, 2020 saw plenty of albums dedicated to our shrines to hedonism. Full of floor stomping bangers designed to replicate the experience of being shoulder to shoulder with strangers. But in your front room. Parquet Courts, the raucous New York quartet, seem to have been inspired by this club-less existence too with ‘Sympathy For Life’. Though theirs is more CBGB than Paradise Garage.
Their groove-driven, sweat-covered seventh album dials up the floor-filling attitude we saw on ‘Wide Awake!’ and then some, drawing from Andrew Weatherall’s acid house influence on ‘Screamadelica’ to the likes of Talking Heads’ art-rock sensibilities.
This doesn’t mean their propulsive, rough energy has fallen by the wayside in favour of dubby basslines and wobbly synths. If anything, it elevates the outrage and neuroses that rings through their work. As though trying to remove themselves from the ills of the world yet still crushed by them, creating a cartoonish space of their own design to deal with it all.
The 1-2 of ‘Walking At A Downtown Pace’ and ‘Black Widow Spider’ still race along like mine carts out of control, only, now, Max Savage’s drum fills sound like they’d echo around The Haçienda. ‘Application Apparatus’, meanwhile, pairs their anxieties with LCD Soundsystem’s brand of danceable alienation.
Lyrically, everything about Parquet Courts feels impulsive and natural. Andrew Savage’s righteous fury at the capitalist system is as joyfully off-the-cuff yet fiercely smart as a boozy pub debate with your best pal; even allusions to the pandemic peppered throughout the album are pure coincidence, much of the album was already finished by the time the world locked down. Yet it only reinforces the message that, in a world full of chaos, we need to carve out our own spaces and continue to feel to find what good there is left.
The product of plenty of acid and a lot of jamming ‘Sympathy For Life’ is as spontaneous and sharp-tongued as you might expect from a Parquet Courts record. Never do the Brooklyn foursome feel as intricately designed as the bands they pull from. Instead, they continue to cartwheel off in whatever direction feels the most fun. A creatively restless band who know how to transform absurdism into something pulsatingly alive.