Songs for the White man
“Hey Nashville, we’re Parquet Courts.”
And with that, the New York quartet burst out of the gates of their first live LP. The introduction is fitting; the tersity of frontman Andrew Savage’s opening monologue speaks to the minimalism of his band’s lo-fi garage punk. The drum beat that animates the entirety of opener “Duckin’ and Dodgin’ ” is so punchy and simple that it could only work as well as it does in the context of such earnest, fuzzed-out power pop.
While some listeners might immediately identify the echoes of turn of the century garage/post-punk revival bands like The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, (not to mention the duo that earned Jack White his very own record studio) Parquet Courts’ stylistic roots run deceptively deep. Cuts like “Black and White” invoke the spirits of The Stooges, The MC5 and Blue Cheer – proto-punk from the era when Elvis’ reign as all-time chart-topper wasn’t all that distant in the rearview mirror, and the burgeoning, aggressive art form was still tinged with un-ironic blues, untainted by the gruff intensity of the coming hardcore movement.
In spite of their classicist rock format, Parquet Courts aren’t scared to venture off the beaten path, albeit in short, segmented deviations. During the listing, tuneful ranting sprinkled into the ten-minute meandering psychedelic dirge of “Raw Milk” (at least two minutes of which is atonal, screeching guitar noise) Savage sounds impeccably like a very young, hoarse Nick Cave. The accelerated stumble of the boozy “Bodies” even emulates The Birthday Party’s raucous and unsettling jerk for a dash of boisterous bitterness, likening them to the earlier work of Parquet Courts’ contemporaries The Horrors.
The Courts’ focus only narrows from there. “Always Back in Town” sounds like a combination The Fall’s dissonant post-punk and The Cramps’ jumpy, surf rock pastiche tunesmanship, all buzzsaw guitar and throaty sneers handed down from The Ramones. “Instant Disassembly” stops just short of solidifying into an all-out Motown soul sing-a-long, drifting back on itself into a lo-fi garage ballad in the vein of The Troggs. Ragged barks of “And the last classic rock band’s last solid record creeps in / A call out of the blue from an old, old friend,” trails off, confirming that Parquet Courts (or at least their primary lyricist) harbors no illusions in his place as a rock musician in 2015. The Band’s live outing ends where it started with the title track from Sunbathing Animal: a lightning quick block of punk energy that screeches to a halt rather than fading out.
Live at Third Man Records is a fun, fast, primarily unchallenging ride that comes nowhere close to overstaying its welcome. It’s a recorded show that sounds like it was more fun to attend than listen to.
They say that all the greatest live albums get majorly touched up in post-production. From Alive! to No Sleep To Hammersmith to The Last Waltz to Live Rust, famous tales abound of engineers adding extra applause, layering vocal tracks and fudging the bass guitarists’ repeated missed notes after the fact. There’s not much out there to confirm it, but with the way you can hear the guitarists’ fingertips on the frets of their guitars and feel every slurred vocal articulation, you feel that this Parquet Courts gig is crucially unrefined. And it’s certainly the better for it.