Music Reviews
Light Up Gold

Parquet Courts Light Up Gold

(What's Your Rupture?) Rating - 8/10

If you ever wondered how much a simple promo picture can really tell you about a band’s music, let’s look in the case of Parquet Courts. I’ve been following coverage of this band for a few months now, and nearly every story I’ve encountered on the group features the same telling, unflattering picture of the band. The image itself is quite simple: A black and white shot of four dudes, two sitting calmly in the back, two others scarfing down a couple of fast food tacos or something similarly junky. On your left, there’s singer/songwriter Andrew Savage looking slyly and smart-alecky at the camera like he just noticed it mid chew, remnants of food still poking out and all, while the guy on the left seems too involved with his food to notice the camera at all. It’s hard not to think of certain derogatory names like “slacker” or “stoner” when looking at the picture, and though nobody wants to judge, there doesn’t seem to be anything too significant going on in the shot, and by the look on their faces, they seem ok with that.

But these guys didn’t spend all of their time on fast food binges; they recorded an album together, too. However, this is where things begin to get tricky. On the surface, Light Up Gold does a great job of reflecting this casual atmosphere and munchies-driven personality through 15 brash, beer-soaked tracks banged out in just a little more than 30 minutes. Featuring what sounds like few overdubs and lo-fi-but-not-too-lo-fi production, Light Up Gold comes off as the quintessential basement punk album (you can practically see the old, beat up sofa in the background when listening), with each track sounding as if they were effortlessly performed and recorded one right after the other in a single take. There are certainly few things  about the album that stand out as new or original, but I doubt this was a huge concern, as the album instead comes off more as an attempt by a few good buds to make a killer garage rock record.

This leads us to exactly what that promo pic fails to capture regarding Parquet Courts: These guys can write some great songs, and in quick succession, too. Light Up Gold may give off the impression that it was quickly thrown together by a couple of slackers, but that’s merely what these guys want you to think. But you can’t just half-ass hooks like these, and through the album's half-hour, catchy blitzes of post punk like Borrowed Time, Yonder Is Closer To The Heart, and Light Up Gold II pop and ignite with immediacy and precision. Even the album's shortest tracks, which can go by so fast that you may not even catch them the first time around, are fully realized, claiming their own identity with their own unique hooks and feeling.

The band's swift, stripped down approach to song craft and performance will certainly earn the group plenty of comparisons to the likes of Wire, and in many ways those comparisons are certainly just. Even with the album's longer songs, Light Up Gold never wastes a minute of the listener's time with any unnecessary frills, as Parquet Courts stay firmly committed to their core elements through each track. But despite the group's attempt to keep things as distilled as possible, Light Up Gold proves to be a varied affair, with no two songs ever truly sounding the same despite clearly coming from the same place. Sure, there are moments of pure post-punk that would fit comfortably with some of Pink Flag’s best songs, but other tracks, like the drowsy Careers In Combat, the Guided By Voices-reminiscent Picture of Health, and the harrowing, dazed album centerpiece, Stoned and Starving, prove that Parquet Courts are more than just Wire without the accents. In fact, the group manages to find their own unique voice in Savage, who manages to frequently jump from hostile yelping to a more subdued cooing from track to track, all while managing a snide, stoned indifference throughout.

True slackerdom is never an ideal characteristic when attempting to start a band. Hell, even showing up for band practice regularly requires a healthy amount of responsibility and dedication that leaves little room for taking bong hits in your friend’s mom’s basement all night. Parquet Courts understands this – I mean, they must have if they ever expected to record such a finely crafted collection of indie rock as Light Up Gold – they just know that making it all look effortless is the key to keeping the everyman spirit of the genre intact, allowing people to better relate to their music.  If Light Up Gold as a whole compares to any part of the band's promo picture, it would certainly be those take-out tacos the members are enjoying so eagerly. Sure it’s nothing incredibly unique and you’ve probably had it a million times before, but it’s nevertheless completely delicious, especially once those munchies start kicking in.