Pop history is full of instances of bands creating new identities to free themselves from the imagined strictures of their old ones. The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper’s; Prince had Camille; Beyoncé had Sasha Fierce; Garth Brooks had Chris Gaines. Parkay Quarts have been billed as an “alter-ego” of the smart, scrappy punk band Parquet Courts, but the term seems off: While “alter-ego” implies a different side of the same person—Superman to Clark Kent—Parkay Quarts are effectively Parquet Courts’ two frontmen and principal songwriters, Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, filled out with help from assorted friends, including Jackie-O Motherfucker’s Jef Brown and Bob Jones, from the band Eaters. Alongside PCPC—Parquet Courts’ collaboration with the muddy psychedelic band PC Worship—Parkay Quarts seems less like an attempt to devise a new identity than to blur the edges of the one they already have.
Content Nausea was proudly recorded on four-track cassette, that old saw of indie cred and self-reliance in the pre-digital era. The recording is humid and a little sloppy; the songs are occasionally in rough shape, with scaffolding showing. Both Austin and Savage are expert mimics—the kind of songwriters who suggest a rich and variegated past without ever seeming like slaves to it. Listen to Content Nausea—as with Parquet Courts’ great Sunbathing Animal, which came out only six months ago—and you’ll hear Richard Hell, the Minutemen, the B-52s, the Raincoats, Pavement, Talking Heads, and an entire history of bands who took the nervous energy of early rock’n’roll and launched it into more oblique orbits. But people said the same thing about the Strokes almost 15 years ago, you might be thinking. They did, and they were right then too. Such is the great wheel of time. (Not that Parquet Courts are all that much like the Strokes—they are brainier, funnier, more severe and less likely to go over at barbeques.) And so we arrive once again at the indie-rock analog to a bistro burger: Something simple and familiar made with enough invention to make you feel like the tradition still has room to grow.
Content Nausea—what a title! Song after song, Savage and Brown bark their anxieties about modern life with enough wit to suggest that they’re aware of the convention and enough passion to suggest that they feel those anxieties anyhow. “This year it became harder to be tender/ Harder and harder to remember/ Meeting a friend/ Writing a letter/ Being lost/ Antique ritual/ All lost to the ceremony of progress,” Savage says on the title track, his voice flat and intense, the beat poet unspooling his revelations over free jazz. And then comes the caveat: “Ignore this part, it’s an advertisement/ These people are famous, I’d trust ’em!”
Are any of these lyrics specifically about 2014, a year in which you can walk into a bar and see someone wearing glasses connected to the Internet? Not really. Like Sunbathing Animal, Content Nausea keeps its symbols flexible and vague. Sometimes the vagueness seems a little lazy, sometimes just ironic—rather than preoccupying itself with the actual stuff of modern life, Nausea is preoccupied with albums preoccupied with the stuff of modern life. But like all traditionalists, closeted or out, Parquet Courts seem of the mind that these changes—dial-up to smartphones, missile launchers to drone strikes—are superficial. The only difference between now and then is the shape of the toy, not how we use it or what it does to our brains.
Nausea is easier to listen to than Sunbathing Animal in part because it seems less ambitious. Four of its tracks are around a minute long; one is a so-so cover of “These Boots are Made For Walkin’” (itself a punk staple as ubiquitous as the safety pin); one is basically spoken word over noise—a reminder that for all the band’s nervous intensity, they’re basically bookworms. If they belong in a tradition of New York punk—an ambition Savage has talked cannily about in interviews—it’s the tradition of people like Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell and Patti Smith, stalking moonlit streets in ripped jeans with Rimbaud and Baudelaire tucked into their unwashed armpits, less concerned with smashing the state than with cutting through the red tape that holds them back from the wilderness within, romantics who tried to forge ahead by clawing back to the source.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1v255Kl