TARA CARLIN explores the new Parkay Quarts LP.
Parquet Courts, a garage rock band stemming from New York, have released their second studio album of 2014. But this time, under the name of Parkay Quarts. The change in name is due to the absence of one band member who is completing a Mathematics degree and another who is starting a family. The work released is mostly that of Andrew Savage and Austin Brown. Following the success of their LP Sunbathing Animals released in June, the post-punk revivalists have not been at rest from the studio. Content Nausea is their fourth studio album and indeed it does not fall short of their previous work.
It opens with jolty and bumpy melodies with the track ‘Everyday It Starts’, periodically bemoaning angst and paranoia with the repeated lyric: “anxiety”. The former half of the album reinforces the band’s signature neurotic punk style, with Savage’s vocals lamenting the listener’s “bullshit dreams” in the track ‘Pretty Machines’. He even mocks the listener’s obsession with post-modernist technology by retorting “you think you’re a modern person” ironically juxtaposing with “you think you’re not a servant”. The band is renowned for using word of mouth as a means of gaining a fan base, rather than being slaves to social media. It’s quite remarkable that they have a DIY approach with witty punk lyrics and neurotic jabbing melodies gaining attention, they told the Guardian “we’ve come this far without using social media”. A fancy cover photo on Facebook doesn’t do the work for them.
The track titles in this album are symbolically crucial as they resonate the confined chaos, a reoccurring theme in this album. ‘Psycho Structures’ connotes a paradox of comforting and controlled anxious nausea. Then followed by ‘The Map’, with distorted guitar riffs brushing a tapping electronic beat, the vocals reminisce those of Slint, as Savage cleverly yet crudely describes his mind and body as a map: “can you pinpoint the origin of my anxiety? /the doctor pulled out a map”. The images bluntly spoken by Savage illustrate human vices such as envy and desire manifesting in his neurons, exacerbating the anxious and nauseous tone being portrayed.
Oddly what I believe to a main highlight of the album is a majorly unexpected shift in tone with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots’. It took me about twenty seconds to be certain that they were indeed covering the song. It is always a pleasant surprise when an adequate cover is delivered; arguably this one is even more addictive with the drowning riffs contrasting with the upbeat brass. Paradoxically this track is the band’s successful attempt at an unfamiliar genre with a pop classic whilst still adhering to their true style and ‘punkifying’ their cover.
The album ends on a poignant yet calm climax with ‘Uncast Shadow Of A Southern Myth’. The track leading the album to dusk epitomizes the profound lyrical innovation of this album. The song describes a narrative of the death of a southern man, with references to Reagan and Clinton, even Elvis, the epitome of a southern man. The track asserts the dwindling death of the phenomenon and the subversive morals previously the norm in this society. The ambiguity of the story’s moral is exhilarating yet sinister, does the protagonist commit suicide to atone his sins or die without repenting? The shadows encapsulate this unclear tale.
The former half of the album replays the candid, gritty and banging melodic style that we know Parquet Courts so well for. Despite this wonderful familiarity the latter half of the album is its harmonious peak. It is as if ‘Psycho Structures’ is a boarder leading to a new territory of this band we have been yet to hear. Now that we have heard these new ideas of Parquet Courts/Parkay Quarts, it is clear that the band is steering towards a promising new direction.
Content Nausea was released on Rough Trade Records on 11th November.