On their new album Wide Awake! Parquet Courts team up with Danger Mouse to release their most diverse and well executed album yet.
Since exploding onto the post punk scene earlier in the decade, the unlikely rockers have become one of indie rock’s favorite acts. Since their inception in New York City in 2010 the band has delivered multiple stellar albums including Sunbathing Animal and Human Performance. As their fame has risen, so has their collaboration status. In the past Parquet Courts have worked with Danielle Luppi, the Yeah Yeah’s, and more. This time around, A. Savage and the band enlisted the help of iconic producer Danger Mouse. Wide Awake!, is nothing short of what we have come to expect from Parquet Courts, in fact it actually surpasses expectations.
From the get go A. Savage and Parquet Courts get the ball rolling on “Total Football”, a song about the need to work together to solve societal problems. Not only is this an unpopular opinion, in most punk circles (society mannnn), but it is also so eloquently put by Savage. The concept of Total Football is that players on a football (soccer) team switch positions and swap roles when necessary for the ultimate purpose of winning. Savage uses this apt metaphor telling teachers, poets, rebels, etc. to work together, rather than against each other to solve our common problems. Savage brilliantly summarizes his intents during the last verse when he says “swapping parts and roles is not acting but rather emancipation from expectation.” I would be remiss if I only mentioned lyrics on this song, because on Total Football and the rest of the album the production is incredible. The fuzzy, speedy guitar riffs and the frantic percussion keep the listener engaged and fit the theme of the song so well. The choice to have background vocals and chanting also add to the collective ideology Savage pushes. P.S Fuck Tom Brady.
Parquet courts continue their stellar performance into the second track, “Violence.” First off, the droning keys, bass and synth lead to this song are wonderfully entrancing. The creepy synths under the haunting horror film voice in the middle of the track also add quite a lot to the message Savage illustrates. Savage shouts, in poetic style, about the increased numbness to violence we see every day. Every day we wake up to news of new shootings or attacks, and it has become so common that it no longer shocking like it should be. Not only is violence so common, but it is never changed, no matter how many shootings, politicians will never act. As the band chants in the chorus “a promise is a pact that will never be kept/ violence is daily life.” Savage’s lyrics are also incredibly intricate screaming lines like “this is why we can’t afford to close an open casket./ you protect no one by obscuring the mirror that reflects our own problematic reality.”
The next two tracks are far more subdued than their predecessors. On “Before The Water Gets Too High,” Savage sings about the potential for an apocalypse that we constantly ignore. Savage delivers poignant lyrics like “glass barely bends before it cracks” over a semi funky bass line and the droning of an omnichord, yes an omnichord.
On “Mardi Gras Beads” Savage sings over a cheery, yet somber guitar lead, about a complicated relationship. Savage enlists numerous music metaphors to compare his confusing commitment issues to parts of a song. The outro to the track directly juxtaposes the previous two minutes with a lively guitar melody and instrumentation.
Parquet courts return to their classic punk style on the next track “Almost had to start a fight/In and Out of Patience.” On the first leg of the track Savage yelps over punky guitar and wild percussion, which is performed to a tee. Savage sings about the struggle to feel alive in an ultra-depressing society. The second part of the track has a surf rock inspired guitar melody. Savage sings about his growing exhaustion of tedious everyday events. “Lighting up my phone (darkening my mood)” or “Saw it underground (you could burn to death)” are just some of the brilliant lyrics on in and out of patience. The background vocals’ arpeggio adds a collective feel to the track as well.
“Normalization” is yet another example of great songwriting from Savage. Savage sings “Faced with a decision: What do I call bullshit?” on the opening line of the track setting the tone for the rest of the track. Savage is frustrated with how normal shocking and terrible events have become in everyday life and how he has to decide what he has time to be mad about. The aggressive drums and vocal style of Savage elicits a frustrated tone as well. Most notably the drums on this track are incredibly well performed, with extremely complex patterns performed during the instrumental interlude between verses. The drums on the entire project are eccentric and wild, a real step forward for Parquet Courts sound.
The title track “Wide Awake” is another highlight of the project. Parquet Courts goes an unlikely route with this track with simpler lyrics and groovy production. The unorthodox percussion of bells and other trinkets compliments the funky bass line and guitar. Savage attacks “woke” culture on this track. Savage makes fun of how eager people are to be woke, and how it takes away from the actual issues at hand. This track is perfect example of the versatility Parquet Courts showed on this album.
“Wide Awake” is followed by two short tracks “NYC Observation” and “Extinction.” The former is a potent take on our innate sense to simply look away from poverty and dilapidation. Savage uses his trademark shouty voice over punk guitar. “Extinction” continues the upbeat energy from “NYC Observation.”
Much like earlier tracks “Before the Water Gets Too High” and “Mardi Gras Beads,” “Death Will Bring Change” is a slower track on Wide Awake!. Savage sings about how death of others changes your outlook life. The song has a simplistic instrumental and has a haunting children’s choir in the chorus. It is definitely the most unsettling moment on the album.
Parquet Courts ends the album on a bang with “Tenderness.” Savage sings with optimism, furthering his message of we from “Total Football.” While the lyrics on this track are solid, the production takes the spotlight. The bouncy piano melody is beyond infectious and compliments Savage’s singing in the chorus. The guitar and percussion also are fun additions to the song.
Overall, Wide Awake! may well be the magnum opus of Parquet Courts. From chilling melancholy songs like “Before the Water Gets Too High” and “Death Will Bring Change,” to infectiously upbeat songs like “Wide Awake” and “Tenderness.” Parquet Courts executes each song nearly to perfection.
Highlights: Total Football, Violence,, Almost Had To Start A Fight/in and Out of Patience, Freebird II, Normalization, Wide Awake, NYC Observation, Death Will Bring Change, Tenderness