Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (Album Review)

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The mood on any given Parquet Courts album seems to fluctuate on whatever life-defining questions the band want to tackle next. The Brooklyn based punk band has always gone for broke on the themes tackled in their work, from depression to broken relationships always served with a hint of wit and humor to make them go down easy.

This trend continues on the political and groovy Wide Awake!, which finds the band trading inner turmoil into outer dismay at the current political landscape. But rather than point fingers and judge, singers Andrew Savage and Austin Brown use their songs to push for unity in these divided times.

Opener ‘Total Football’ urges a more collective approach to tackling the woes of the world. Savage sings about a litany of people from all paths of life coming together to be “anti-everything you were taught” as well wondering if someone’s “caucasian feelings” have been hurt.

It’s a hilarious track with a message that strikes the right balance between uniting and standing up for yourself. It’s a testament that some seven years on from their debut the band manages to be as biting and necessary as ever. Tracks like ‘Normalization’ and ‘Violence’ look at how the media around us has desensitised us to the disturbing actions of those around us with a more nuanced take than just damning all parties.

Other songs are more personal, such as ‘Freebird II’; a sullen tale of Andrew’s mothers’ drug addiction and ‘Death Will Bring Change’; about Austin’s sisters’ death in a car accident. The lyrics on these tracks, and in fact on every song on the album, hit hard in one moment and leave you laughing with your tears the next. The band shows a level of confidence here that most of their contemporaries could learn from.

It helps too that the band has beefed up sonically to match their new lyrical performances. Bringing on Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) for this album has given the band a more robust sound that highlights the excellent drumming of Max Savage as well as the bass work of Sean Yeaton. It’s almost like Danger Mouse was the skeleton key to the band all along, unlocking their true potential as indie dance icons.

The title track best exemplifies this with its percussion and stunning bass line from Max immediately gets the toes tapping. Elsewhere Yeaton’s drumming takes centre stage on ‘Extinction’ and ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight’ which, matched with Andrew’s shouting vocals, reminds me of some of the Ramones best songs.

Closer ‘Tenderness’ brings it all together with a simple piano jam that is peak Americana. It’s a song that calls for an end for nihilism and finding community among others. It’s a simple song but at its core what it’s saying is so more important than it puts on. The world right now is dark right now and maybe the best way to fight that is to find the light in those around us and fight back. The band may have tackled weightier subjects in the past but with Wide Awake!, it feels like for the first time they might have an answer.

RATING: *****

Wide Awake! is out on May 18th via Rough Trade.