Six months have passed since the dudes of Parquet Courts released Sunbathing Animal, but their compulsive energy has not ceased. While two of the band members parted to follow other interests, the avant punk group’s frontmen Andrew Savage and Austin Brown recorded Content Nausea under the moniker, Parkay Quarts. Noisy indie rock with punk tendencies, Nausea delivers a lo-fi, rugged feel amid lyrics resisting modernization. Susceptible rambler, Andrew Savage vents the slacker vibes we heard on Light Up Gold’s “Stoned and Starving” but this time him and Brown have tightened some screws. Yes, they are still apathetic, but Parkay Quarts are clever and Content Nausea is no exception.
Much like Sunbathing Animal, their earlier release of 2014, Content Nausea leaves us with little to criticize. Musically structured, the album is a well-made vehicle with its ups and downs. The opening track, “Everyday it Starts” takes rapid drum beats and a dense guitar riff as Savage’s anxiety-induced chatters mention, “And I never sleep, but I go to bed.” A harmless denial to something we are all afraid of: falling asleep and letting go; falling asleep and being disconnected, disengaged.
Taking reassurance in a pre-digital way, Content Nausea was recorded on a four-track cassette, defying the exact substance Savage grumbles about, “Writing a letter/ Being lost/ Antique ritual/ All lost to the ceremony of progress.” Underneath the grainy texture of the cassette, one song oozes into the next, and although only shorter by two tracks, Content Nausea moves faster than Sunbathing Animal. “Urban Ease” and “No Concept” are 50 second scratchy guitar solos acting as a relief between each songs post-punk tension. A tension alleviated by tracks with a slowed down, mellowed-out pace. For Sunbathing Animal it was “Instant Disassembly,” and for Content Nausea, it is “Slide Machine” that fits the idle and lethargic, yet amusing demeanor these tracks are praised for. “Slide Machine” aches with twang as Savage reminds us of simpler times, and perhaps the habitual struggle to slow down.
You’ll hear songs reminiscent of Pavement‘s Stephen Malkmus, especially on the ones filled with emotional maunders, like “Psycho Structures” and “The Map.” Both Malkmus and Savage speak in a muddled drone, but Parkay Quarts are even less familiar and more sarcastic. They are specific, while also remaining extremely vague, witty but still uninvolved. An attitude clearly present throughout the album. After all, an eccentric ‘horns and everything’ cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made For Walkin'” finds its way in as a hilarious contrast to the chaotic, hard-edged anthem “Insufferable” that follows. A draping and scratchy end track, “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” closes out the album as Savage sings in an exhausted demeanor.
Content Nausea is brutally honest. Think about it, living is fairly convenient. We haven’t fought a civil war in over 150 years and I bet the last meal you ate didn’t involve you hunting or skinning to get a few good slabs of meat. But if you suddenly lose wi-fi connection, damn. You’re angry! Your discomfort reflects Savages lyrics, “Too much data/ Too much tension” and we feel it all, all the time.
Maybe listening to reverb and distorted guitar riffs makes us uncomfortable, maybe Andrew Savage’s display of “Constantly connected but always alone” makes us tense and nervous, but maybe that is what we need. Discomfort to finally feel comfortable? I’m not so sure, but I think there is something in listening to Content Nausea that is bigger than your iPhone 6 Plus, bigger than your #firstworldproblems. Though these tracks may be short, stripped down bantering excuses to rebel against the digital age, Parquet Quarts are a voice for not only fainéant rockers out there, but everyone living inside an instant gratification bubble.