25th June 2014
“Slacker” rock’s lone occupiers thrill and frustrate in equal measure.
Parquet Courts cannot get a piece written about them in the English language without a certain S word making an appearance (and this one shall be no exception). Though the Brooklyn quartet have made their objections to the “slacker” label known on several occasions, by now it’s so firmly embedded in their reputation that they appear to be playing up to it.
Dossing onto the stage a lax eight minutes late, frontman Andrew Savage is a picture of archetypal slackerdom in a trucker cap and short-sleeved shirt. The look of the entire band is simply effortless in the most literal sense of the word. Thankfully, for the most part, this image of idleness isn’t matched by the music, which begins with the punchy, Container Drivers-paced Ducking and Dodging.
A sizeable mosh pit forms within seconds, and a handful of songs in it catches the attention of an overzealous security team member, taking a small number of crowdsurfers as a cue to stand gingerly at the front of the stage, like a hi vis-jacketed Bez who’s taken too much ketamine. He is soon enough given the signal to make himself hidden again by a colleague before the band have a chance to quite rightly take the piss. “A message to the house security: I think we can hold our own up here,” jokes Savage before cranking up the energy further with a thundering rendition of Master Of My Craft, segueing as usual into Borrowed Time.
Despite tracks from PC’s most recent LP Sunbathing Animal making up a large part of the set-list (an undeniably weaker record than their 2013 breakthrough Light Up Gold), this bouncer-baiting energy is maintained up until the seven-minute yawn that is Instant Disassembly, followed by an improv-heavy, extended medley of Raw Milk and Into The Garden. All in all there is a twenty-minute lull during which many drift off towards the bar, some leave and everyone else is just bored. Several of those who were earlier swiftly invading and jumping off the stage, or assisting others in doing so, are now resting against it, some not even bothering to look at the band.
It might be crass and impolite, but personally it’s hard to blame them. As much as I like Parquet Courts, and I do quite a lot, I don’t like this much of them. Within boundaries, they can pack a punch – see their half-hour KEXP session from SXSW last year for proof – but left to their own devices they resemble four drunks picking fights with rock ‘n’ roll itself. Their sound may overlap with that of seminal, non-‘slacker’ acts like Sonic Youth and The Fall far more than they’re given credit for, but their sprawling skills are nowhere near up to scratch.
Things pick up again by the end with a sprint through You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now, Light Up Gold and Sunbathing Animal, but it feels like too little too late, especially in the absence of anthemic ode to munchies Stoned and Starving.
To call Parquet Courts slackers might be lazy journalism, but playing sets this baggy you can’t expect people to be too flattering with their language. As much as they might have resisted the label in the past, it’s as if they aren’t quite ready to give it up just yet.
All words by Will Dix. More writing by Will can be found at his author’s archive.