12 Plays of Christmas – Parquet Courts

Wandering somewhere between the restless post-punk of the late 70’s and the slacker sensibilities of 90’s alt-rock, Parquet Courts are the sort of band that inspire acclaim but never achieve recognition. Perhaps, musically and lyrically, they are a band out of time. Smart, witty but not overtly political, 2016 was probably not the year to release their best record so far. The world has become a scarier place and consequently, and rightly, our musical lives have become overrun with political consciousness. It would be remiss though to overlook this album.

Human Performance opens with the jarringly childlike Dust. The instruments buzz and tinkle and we are treated to a nursery rhyme of existential angst. Somehow it comes off as light-hearted:

This is Parquet Court’s gift. The ability – like their post-punk forefathers – to hide lyrical bombs between metronomic timing and ear-candy guitars. Berlin Got Blurry is the jewel in the crown of this record, a song you believe is about the freedom and joy of revelry in a foreign country that slowly unravels to reveal heartbreak and fear:

Donair wrappers unwrapped and extinguished
Crotch of a rollie inside yellow fingers
Nothing lasts but nearly everything lingers in life
Cellphone service is not that expensive
But that takes commitment and you just don’t have it
Feels so effortless to be a stranger
But feeling foreign is such a lonely habit
You can’t crop yourself out of the picture
Out-of-focus but still framed inside
Well, Berlin got blurry
And my heart started hurting for you
Self-awareness and doubt shine through this album giving it a humanity that is too rare in modern rock. Never is this clearer than on Pathos Prairie, a song that has paused and taken a good long hard look at the world, at humans and at itself and found only contradiction. There is hope and glory. There is sadness and violence. There is wildness and purity:
 As the title suggests, Human Performance is an album of anthropological analysis. A long hard stare into the mirror  of our souls. It is also beautifully crafted, eminently listenable and surprisingly easy to sneak on at parties. It has charm and heart and can be bought here.
p.s. Apologies for the shortness of the last track (only the first 20 odd seconds). some of WordPress’s functionality embedding Spotify seems to have failed. I’ll try and solve it in the next couple of days.

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