Matt on Music: Parquet Courts's 'Light Up Gold'
Post-punk revival is a genre that should have worked well. Bands influenced by Wire, Gang of Four and The Psychedelic Furs? How could you go wrong?
Well, it did go wrong, and that’s primarily because of what kind of post-punk the artists were influenced by. The majority of post-punk revival bands seemed to be enamored more with Echo & the Bunnyman than Wire and inspired more by Joy Division than The Psychedelic Furs. That’s not to say Joy Division isn’t a band worth copying.
It’s just that not many bands can properly recreate that sound. The only band that successfully recreated Joy Division’s style was The National, and the only reason they were able to do it is because they’re The National.
The genre was put on life support as soon as the 2000s ended, with many of the bands either going on hiatus or fully breaking up. But now, a new band called Parquet Courts have come along and, with their second album “Light Up Gold,” it looks like they are more capable of reviving post-punk than any of the bands that tried so desperately in the last decade.
“Light Up Gold” opens with “Master of My Craft.” It gets their strategy down right away: Adam Savage sings with a solid mix of the sarcasm employed by Gang of Four’s Jon King and the slacker laziness of Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus; the music, meanwhile, shows off an obvious influence from Wire’s “Pink Flag.” Despite being based around a hilariously passive “Forget about it,” this tune is quite unforgettable.
The second track, “Borrowed Time,” features a false ending in the chorus that makes for the album’s funniest moment. Of course, the idea of the false ending isn’t new in pop music (a particularly memorable one appeared in The Contours’ 1962 classic “Do You Love Me”). Putting one in the chorus, however, is practically trolling the listener, and Parquet Courts does it beautifully. The two-and-a-half minute song contains two moments where you’re led to believe it’s over, only for it to start up again. If there was a slacker hall of fame, “Borrowed Time” would deserve its own exhibit.
Parquet Courts’ “Pink Flag” influence is made obvious by the song-lengths. “Light Up Gold” has 15 tracks and is only 33 minutes long. Seven of the tracks are under two minutes, and the title cut is even made up of two parts. The first is an 18-second opening that, on any other album, would never get its own listing. The second is the actual song, which runs under a minute and 15 seconds. Combined, it would be just one second over a minute and a half, and they still felt it necessary to split it into two tracks. Still, the brevity of these songs just makes the album’s masterpiece, “Stoned and Starving,” seem all the more huge with its five minutes.
This is a very funny album, but funniness in rock, no matter how successful, will still fall flat if the music lacks power. “Light Up Gold” works well as humor because it also works as music most of the time. It still has its share of bad moments. “Yr No Stoner,” for instance, features a grating bit of noise that is more unpleasant than enjoyable, while some of the songs near the end are merely forgettable. The flaws aren’t overly apparent, but they definitely exist.
Proving that the artists worth recognizing aren’t always immediately recognized, “Light Up Gold” isn’t actually a 2013 album. It was released in August of 2012 on the indie label Dull Tools. It got little attention, notably a mention on Pitchfork writer Douglas Wolk’s Pazz & Jop ballot, but not much. Then, on Jan. 15 of this year, the album was reissued on the more reputable What’s Your Rupture? indie label. It instantly became a critical success.
Today’s music scene is bizarre like that. The DIY method that’s become commonplace in rock ‘n’ roll is both a blessing and a curse, since the overpopulation of artists hides bands that should be more well-known. Parquet Courts were lucky, but think of how much music the Bandcamp era is leaving in the dust.
Key tracks: “Stoned and Starving,” “Borrowed Time,” “Yonder is Closer to the Heart,” “No Ideas” and “Light Up Gold II.”