Music Reviews
Sympathy for Life

Parquet Courts Sympathy for Life

(Bella Union) Rating - 8/10

What a long strange trip it’s been for Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts. If someone would have told you nearly ten years back that the band’s direction would point more towards an Austin Brown DJ set than an A. Savage rager likely to conjure up a mosh pit, you would have declared them daft. But, alas, here we thankfully are. Following on the heels of the critically acclaimed, and dare we say fun-filled, Wide Awake!, the band’s latest finds them venturing out into more funk and dance-inspired territory. If not as instantly infectious as Wide Awake!, Sympathy For Life imparts the group’s unwillingness to stand still.

The album opens on Walking at a Downtown Pace, which fits in well with the band’s best songs. The track finds co-leader, Savage, nearly giddy with the prospect of post-lockdown wanderings. He promises to “treasure the crowds that once made me act so annoyed” over a swingingly swaggering beat that recalls the best of the band’s woefully overlooked collaboration with Italian composer Daniele Luppi on 2017’s MILANO. Other Savage highlights here include the garage/surf “tuck and roll” of Black Widow Spider and the grouchier Homo Sapien, which recalls a sped-up version of the band’s own What Color is Blood? And it’s hard to deny the British Invasion influence on the über-catchy Just Shadows, which sounds like an old Ray Davies’ chestnut.

But the most interesting finds on Sympathy For Life come from Austin Brown’s knob-twisting musings that in places get short shrift. The blips and bleeps of Marathon Of Anger evolve into a near mimic of Talking Heads’ Slippery People if the song would have appeared on Remain In Light instead of the following Speaking In Tongues. And like the Heads’ high-water marks, the best tracks here are the ones that allow the group to stretch things out. Paramount being the extended funk workout of Plant Life, which is interspersed with snippets of random conversation as it ambles along. The high hats and snares of the burbling title track would have benefited from a longer running time and even the more downcast Trullo could have pushed in further directions given more room.

Following in the footsteps of the group’s breakout album, Sympathy For Life proves more subtle in its efforts to explore new territory. Maybe the wonky earlier era breakdown He’s Seeing Paths knew where this band was headed all along. That song had Brown describing the alternate routes Savage took amongst the Burroughs to avoid the cops while delivering weed. Now the group brings the party with them as well and is more than willing to go with the flow of where tomorrow might take them. Evolution, as it turns out, is much more interesting than revolution, after all.