Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)

New album Wide Awake from Parquet Courts is a beautiful creation that blends proto-punk with their art punk roots.

My Number 1 question leading up to the release of this album was “Will these guys ever get it wrong?” With a discography spanning seven albums, including a collaborative project, Wide Awake is a valuable addition to the band’s prolific body of work.

To say that Wide Awake is well put together would be an exaggeration but in this case, it works in their favor seeing them jump from genre to genre.

We first experience this on the opening track Total Football which sounds like classic Modern Lovers inspiring the Parquet Courts. Co-front man Andrew Savage’s spoken word-like singing turns into what sounds like a mental breakdown with him yelling clever and witty lyrics about football! Ending on the humorous lyric “FUCK TOM BRADY”, we are then instantly thrown into the track Violence which sounds like Patti Smith going experimental. A perfect combination that somewhat predicts the vibe of the album which I have to say is all over the damn place.

One thing that becomes clear on Wide Awake and almost every Parquet Courts album is that the band wear their influences on proud sleeves, if not their shoulders! For me, this often negatively affects an album but with Parquet Courts, this is their secret weapon. They take another performer’s sound, shaping and re-crafting it into something unique. As much as I love this, they fail to do so on track Mardi Gras Beads which sounds like a complete replica of Pavement’s Range Life. But, it’s still a great tune (accompanied by a funny music video).

Another reason why this is an important album in the Parquet Courts discography is the involvement of producer Brian Joseph Burton aka Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley/MF Doom fame). I was skeptical of this collaboration because Burton plies his trade more in the hip hop/electronic genre while Parquet Courts is punk driven. One track that displays the product of this clash between two worlds is the upbeat dancey title track Wide Awake. The heavy use of percussion, simplistic lyrics and a groovy bassline make for a track that belongs on the dancefloor.

Overall, Parquet Courts have done it again by delivering an insanely impressive and creative album while preserving their earlier punk roots. They have also managed to bring new original sounds to the table through the use of multiple keyboards, a more dominant bass selection as well as elements of dance.

You can never really predict what sound Parquet Courts will produce next and that’s what keeps listeners so eager to hear new material from them. Wide Awake is possibly one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year.

Wide Awake is due for release on May 18.

Johnny Strock