“I feel like it’s important to make this band different.” That was the sentiment Parquet Courts’ frontman Andrew Savage recently shared with Grantland’s Steven Hyden, giving a quick glimpse into the psyche of one of rock’s most unique bands. Obviously, setting oneself apart is crucial in the business, but admitting to an attempt to be different is in itself out of the ordinary. Trying too hard at anything in music has always been the antithesis of cool, even if most of those pretending not to care were full of shit. After all, even Bob Dylan tried to get people to forget about Robert Zimmerman. So Savage’s admission of wanting to make something different is, in itself, different.
Their efforts are to good effect, too. Parquet Courts use of dissonance, distortion, and chromaticism in their songs is enough to set them apart from most bands these days. Their influences are ever-present, but not distractingly so. Equal parts Pavement, Sonic Youth, and Rolling Stones-style blues, Savage and company often bathe the listener in cacophony before jabbing at them with breathless, spastically sung verses. “You’ve been duckin and dodging, but you can’t come home no more,” Savage sings on “Duckin and Dodgin,” a bleak warning delivered with raucous energy. And with the way some of these tracks sting and thrash with their indefatigable repetition, it feels like only a matter of time before the question in “What Color is Blood” will get answered.
However, the album is at its best during the slow burns. “Dear Ramona” could easily be dropped into the middle of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and nobody would be the wiser (I mean, he describes a girl as a “hypnosis poet,” for crying out loud), but is an early triumph on this record. Even the seven-minute long “Instant Disassembly” infects with a guitar riff that gets beaten home during Savage’s desperate, defeated plea to a certain mamacita. “It cuts to my core when I see you cry,” he sings, clueing us into just what exactly is being disassembled.
If “different” becomes the watchword for Parquet Courts, then I imagine they’ll be alright. Their amalgamation of styles coupled with the winding, yet matter-of-fact lyrics is unmatched in the current rock scene. And as they continue to take more chances, they’ll only do more to set themselves apart. It finally makes you grateful for a group that admits they’re ready to try.