Parquet Courts: Camden Electric Ballroom, London – live reviewParquet Courts

Camden Electric Ballroom

16th Feb 2014

Stoned, sullen, reductive and self-entitled; at face value, Parquet Courts embody some of indie rock’s worst traits. And yet there’s something compelling about the Texas-by-way-of-Brooklyn quartet’s motoric groove and scuffed but insistent earworm hooks.

Shuffling onstage with barely articulated hellos, Parquet Courts don’t seem like they’re going to justify my love: “We’ve thawed to it” was frontman Andrew Savage’s ambivalent verdict on their last trip to the UK. Opening dirge She’s Rolling gradually unfolds itself, building to a wall of noise, Savage and Austin Brown hollering “We’re going down to hell” the gathering storm of squalling guitar seethes around them. Turns out we weren’t being shut out so much as gradually teased in; once they’ve warmed us up, Parquet Courts go at their songs with a punk energy that’s hinted at but not always full realised in the krautrock-meets-The Strokes rattle of their records.

In typically contrary fashion, after such a slow-burn start, Parquet Courts barrel through a clutch of fan favourites in a breakneck medley that seems to last barely ten minutes. Careers In Combat rails against austerity driving the young and desperate into the military, You’ve Got Me Wondering Now gets a surly Fall-like swagger and a discordantly clangourous Master Of My Craft crashes straight into the pop-punk (as in Spiral Scratch, rather than baggy shorts) Borrowed Time in a steamroller of punk momentum and feedback-laced distortion.

“This is normally the song when people stop pushing each other around” remarks Andrew Savage after the eerily catchy, minor-key harmonies of North Dakota “but you can’t stop young male aggression…and I should know” Putdown or confession? No time to decide beforeParquet Courts set the nerd-hipster throng pogoing with a Stoned and Starving which amps the record’s Modern Lovers-meets-Can groove into an amphetamined CBGBs-era Television freakout, Savage’s drummer brother Max holding the Mo Tucker beat as the guitars duel in a spiky, funkless breakdown and spin out into psychedaelic spirals, expanding and enhancing the taught motoric groove of the record.

Duckin’ and Dodging and Light Up Gold throw more post-hardcore hooks our way, keeping the energy further up.  Parquet Courts detachment and distance were never a front of icy austerity, more a deliberate holding back, winding up the crowd before releasing the energy; they’ve been playing with us all along, the little teases.

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Tommy Mack fronted sartorially elegant cubist-swingpunk trio General Khaki, touring with Babyshambles and supporting Goldblade, The Maccabees and Rumble Strips among many others. He has written about music for the NME, Loose Lips Sink Ships, Drowned in Sound and a plethora of short-lived publications as well as writing fiction, plays and sitcoms. His play Standing Up was performed by First Draft Theatre Group in London. He also trod the boards as a stand-up comic for three years, supporting Stewart Lee and Jason Manford among others and causing a girl he used to fancy in school to say he was “quite good”. Currently Tommy fronts the dapper surf-punk band White Ape. Pete Doherty once described his jaw as ‘chiselled’ but he’s let himself go a bit since then.

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