Well we’ve got our first solid rock album of the year, and looking at Metacritic everyone else seems to think so too. Which is quite surprising on first observation because the singer can’t sing, the riffs sound like a child tapping on your shoulder and the lyrics are so steeped in pseudo-intellectual slackerisms that they beg to be ignored as merely verse fillers. And yet for some reason it works. Firstly, it’s actually a tight album, the drums always have nice raw beat to them that help move the efficient riffs. Moreover, the lead guitar hasn’t been given Mascis-esque wandering rights, but instead functions as simplistic forerunner, helping flesh out the verse and lead the momentum. Most importantly, the album actually has hits. ‘Borrowed Time’ has knee-jerk danceability. Indeed after a few choruses you’ll most likely be singing along to what you think the chorus sounds like, “it seems these days I’m ‘cappin-a-miss’ (?) borrowed time!” And it’s probably this blend of fun and not caring what the lyrics mean, which makes the album so attractive. This ain’t a hipster band, they can hardly take themselves seriously enough to qualify as one. Instead it becomes a pleasure to just wallow in this 90’s slacker bliss like, “Storm chasin’ hippies at a discount mall/ Megaphone muppet poster on the wall.”
However, it would be worth seeing what these guys roots are, as this 90’s alternative rock has had a big renaissance lately with such bands as The Men, Mac DeMarco and Yuck. Firstly, Parquet Courts seem to know exactly where they’re coming from, referencing Pavement in “Careers in Combat” and “N Dakota,” and “Caster of Worthless Spells” sounds like a Guided by Voices B-side. Yet, the band’s real weight, which sets them apart from other garage-rockers, seems to come from their predecessor’s own influences. The singer sounds like Jonathan Richman, punk’s goofy godfather. Moreover, the driving bass/drum duo harks back to krautrock bands such as Neu! and Can. However, the real juicy ingredient in the mix is The Minutemen, a band whose influence has not been as apparent in since the millennium. Parquet Courts have discipled well under Boon and Watt, learning how to pack a punch with condensed songs, punchy lyrics and casual bass/guitar interplay. And, while its any reviewers (ultimately unproductive) dream to dissect a band into its influences, the method here goes to show that the fact Parquet Courts songs sound eerily recognisable, while also fresh, is that they’ve found a deep blend of influences that they can formulate into something new.
Yet these overtly underground roots may be counterproductive, and may perhaps be why Light up Gold got overwhelmingly good reviews. For reviewers don’t forsee the band upsetting any system, which could put the review site’s reputation on the line. Indeed the best this album can hope for seems to be breaking even on sales and reaching #49 on Top 50 albums of 2013 (the album actually came right at the end of 2012, but most sites are treating it as a 2013 work.) Nevertheless Light up Gold is a great foundation album. Parquet Courts now need to formulate their own image into something that is unique and necessary in the 21st century.