Parlor Walls is a band from Brooklyn, New York. Their music is noisy and overwhelming. Their latest release, Opposites, is one of the most satisfying things the ears can consume. You ought to be excited for Parlor Walls.
Self-described as ‘trash jazz’, Parlor Walls is nothing short of a saxophone-fueled noise monster –vicious and tearing through silence with distortion and emotional intensity. It’s unique enough to be interesting while familiar enough to feel grounded. Opposites’ melodies are genius and each verse feels properly motivated by the last –pushed forward by a constant onslaught of jazzy sax.
Opposites begins with a deep percussion and siren-sounding saxophone wailing in the background. Vocals interweave their way in and begin to pave out another form of texture. The melody pulses and the horns and guitars gain a dismal, dizzying darkness. “Crime Engine Failure” is a convincing and passionate opener. Dark and gritty, the musicians behind Parlor Walls perform a noisy metal meets jazz meets punk introduction. Unfortunately, the longer I listened, the more it felt as if the horn was underemphasized. Its pronunciation drowned out by a mirroring distorted guitar. “Crime Engine Failure” kicks Opposites off properly but slowly. Parlor Walls likes their foreplay, they want to build the album up –they’ll take their time –and it pays off.
After the four minute introductory jam, I was really aching for something special. Just before I finished saying, “more horn” the saxophone cut in along deep notes. “Cover Me” is a bit more industrial and covers itself in a muddy mix of bass. The saxophone howls cacophonously in the background as vocals seep through the speakers. The song progressed and I found myself lulling to the poetic slowness of “Play Opposites.” The vocals took center stage this time and created a haunting build up. “Is this what it means to be free?” Still, throughout all of this, I always felt as if some of the lyrical content was lackluster if not poorly executed. Maybe it’s the lack of energy behind sing-chanting “burn it to the ground” Say it with some goddamn conviction –how is the listener supposed to believe ‘burn it down’ if you sound burned out?
Problematically, this is the case more often than not. Parlor Walls has some of the best composed instrumentation. The vocals? –less so. They’d be fitting if this were Bat For Lashes but this isn’t Bat For Lashes. Trash Jazz deserves something with as much gusto behind it as its name implies. That said, I’m not trying to say the vocals are bad –but maybe poorly chosen. They don’t crack –and that’s a shame. Louder outbursts normally fail to be the all-out screams they need to be. It’s a stylistic choice that just seems oddly meek –opposites, maybe.
But by track six I had nearly fallen in love again even against my own critiques. Ironically, “Teach Me Where To Roam,” utilizes the most of that half poetry half singing and yet it’s better executed than most other pieces of the album. It’s a moment where the band really seems to come together with incredible synergy. To hear the saxophone and percussion rise with the vocals in a way more compelling than just repeating melodies is to hear an overwhelming unity. As the vocals work through each word, the atmosphere that the instruments paint rival Godspeed! –it’s heavy and beautifully created.
Opposites is largely an excellent listen. Admittedly at times it gets a bit old –saxophone and distortion begin to sound a bit too calculated. But otherwise, an excellent listen. Still, no song nor section could have prepared me for “Me Me My.”
Sometimes slow and minimal is just what you need. Less is more and perfect execution can change lives. “Me Me My” begins with ominous, deep percussion welcoming in distortion and a repeating sax. The vocals come in as if through a loudspeaker. It’s the same slow sequence for four minutes but it’s cinematic and pushes. The amount of dissonance is impressive. This isn’t Genocide Organ but Parlor Walls isn’t afraid to tempt those notions either. The song comes to a sudden, brief stop, fills the air with a mix of fleeing horn and a ghastly wailing in the distance. Finally, it opens way towards the end of the album.
Undoubtedly, Parlor Walls’ Opposites will place the band on your radar whether you like it or not. Their blaring saxophone will teach you a thing or two about manners. The hypnotic percussion will grab your attention and the vocals will slap you in the face, shake you out of it, and sacrifice you to a ravenous guitar. It’s one hell of a listen but still –there’s something more. In subsequent listens, Opposites became less attractive with time and every press of play became more off-putting. The band has an excellent approach to noise but their variation is limited and leaves for something to be desired. Regardless, fans of noise, metal, or a little bit of loose sax over distorted guitar owe it to themselves to listen to Opposites.