Parquet Courts, Brooklyn Steel, New York, 1st April 2022
Updated: Apr 5
Four word and a symbol review
Parquet Courts = Punk Floyd
Slightly more considered review
On the last night of my first trip to New York in six years, and my first proper overseas trip in 27 months, we head over to Brooklyn to see Parquet Courts.
The band were formed in Brooklyn, though three of them hail from Texas, so this is very much a homecoming gig. It's the first of two nights and it's rammed. The audience, largely white and male, is very American - preppy, 20s-40s (we Brits feel like the oldest swingers in town). As we wait for them to take the stage, the sound system belts out Todd Terje's remix of M's Pop Musik. It's an odd choice, but it's a great mix and its pulsing beat sets the scene for what's to follow. Also, as the lights shoot out from the stage, they hit a smog of clouds of marijuana that swirl around the room from the crowd. New York legalised marijuana on 31st March 2021. A year and a day on, New York has taken to it with gusto.
We stick to the beers and marvel at crowd through the viscous haze that surrounds us. Then the band take the stage, launching into Application/Apparatus from their new album, Sympathy For Life. It's a pulsing piece of Krautrock, a modern day sibling to Pink Floyd's One Of These Days from Meddle. They quickly move to Human Performance and Dust from their 2016 album, Human Performance. Both tracks are Pavement-esque - slack, repetitive and brilliant.
They swing again to post punk belter Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience - a song that feels like it will implode and trip over itself at any moment. It brings some much needed energy to the show. The song hurtles along as a friendly man from Washington DC hears we are English and tries to engage me in a conversation about soccer, wanting to know my favourite team - he's baffled when I explain soccer's not my bag. He's genuinely nice, and we marvel about the amount of dope around the place. But I really want him to shut the f*** up so I can watch the gig - I never felt I had to start a fight, but my limited levels of patience are tried.
The band continue, clearly having no concern about my utter disinterest in my national sport. Their influences continue to show though - Marathon Of Anger and Sympathy For Life are Talking Heads at their most languid and funky. New single Watching Strangers Smile is slacker garage rock - Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers on a sunny day. Plant Life is a chilled Happy Mondays - Parquet Courts could do with a Bez, they really could.
Standouts are the brilliant Wide Awake, which grooves along, shouting "I'm wide awake
Mind so woke 'cause my brain never pushed the brakes". It's not the most sophisticated lyric, but it's a cracking tune and the crowd are getting down with their bad selves. Mardi Gras Beads is more Syd Barrett-esque Floyd, while closer Pulcinella is seven minutes of gut wrenching sadness - it's lovely, its closing guitar coda is fabulous and mesmerising.
The whole show is fantastic, aided by the beers and the smoke around us. The tunes are a mix of joyful, danceable tracks, often with unconventional song structures, instant pop hooks and even the occasional whistle. As we leave, my companion is concerned they are a little too perfect, a little too polished, a little too slick. I know what he means and at times despite the shouting, the Krautrock beats and the unconventional tunes, it is a little antiseptic, a little safe, But it's great fun and I will definitely see them again. If you get the chance go!
For fans of: Pavement, Talking Heads, (early) Pink Floyd