Release Date: Nov 27, 2015
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Noise Pop
With Parquet Courts it seems almost natural to expect the unexpected. Following last year’s releases of ‘Sunbathing Animal’ and ‘Content Nausea’ – the latter released under the moniker Parkay Quarts – the princes of post-punk might be back to their original band name, but new record ‘Monastic Living’ is as much of a departure as every move the group make. Their first release on Rough Trade, the release is almost entirely instrumental.
Goodbye cruel world, Parquet Courts are off to join the circus. You’d think that “Stoned and Starving” was some “Creep”-like smash of crossover ubiquity (or Sunbathing Animal some OK Computer-like flashpoint for unanimous critical superlativizing) from the way the whipsmart post-punk quartet have swerved into the screeching left turn of their latest EP, Monastic Living. The set — which at nine tracks and 32 minutes, is mysteriously close in length to last year’s Content Nausea LP, recorded without their rhythm section under the Parkay Quarts fake-moustache — sees the band, back to full lineup and correct spelling, reinventing themselves as avant Krautrockers, sacrificing conventional song structures (and lyrics, mostly) for crunching, free-form drone rock.
Modern art, as the old saying goes, can often leave you feeling a mix of “Hey, I could have done that” and “Yeah, but you didn’t.” Monastic Living, the new EP from the sharp-tongued and sharp-riffing quartet Parquet Courts, might leave you as exasperated as trying to make sense of a 14-foot long block of wood covered in black nail polish. Over the course of its nine tracks, we hear vocals, a melody and something to tap your foot to only once. Unfortunately, those things all occur on the EP’s opening track, titled “No, No, No.” After that, things take a turn for the less than memorable.
Brooklyn-based indie punks Parquet Courts (sometimes known as Parkay Quarts) received an enormous amount of critical acclaim since the 2012 release of their second album, Light Up Gold. Both of the group's 2014 albums, Sunbathing Animal and Content Nausea, were given European issues by Rough Trade, and 2015 EP Monastic Living was exclusively released by the London-based indie institution. The release is easily the group's most abrasive, experimental recording to date, consisting either of extended, repetitive workouts or shorter, fragmentary pieces.
On the jittery, abrasive opening track to Monastic Living, Parquet Courts proclaim that they don't want to be essayists, they don't want to tacked on to anyone's cause: "No, no, no! We're just a band," they sing. These lyrics stand alone on an otherwise entirely instrumental EP, and more than anything, serve as a mission statement: Parquet Courts are taking a vow of silence.For those familiar with the New York art-punks, Monastic Living's calculated experimentation shouldn't come as a surprise. On last year's Content Nausea, the band questioned the racket of modern life, and in many ways, Monastic Living is an answer to those questions.
When Parquet Courts smashed their way into the indie rock consciousness with Light Up Gold in 2013, we thought we had them figured out. Their reference points were easy enough to pinpoint. The band’s sound played like a love letter to a very specific piece of New York’s musical history, beginning somewhere near the decadent pre-punk cool of the Velvet Underground and weaving in the art school smarts of Television and the noisier inclinations of Sonic Youth.
On "No No No!", the opener of Parquet Courts’ new mini-LP Monastic Living, Andrew Savage declares in a mangled grunt, "I don’t want to be called a poet/ Don’t want to hang in a museum/ Don’t want to be cited, tacked onto your cause/ No, no, no/ I’m just a man. " From a band who've typically resisted disenchantment against the odds, it’s an alarming statement of rejection. On 2012's Light Up Gold, Savage and co-songwriter Austin Brown blazed through mundane minutiae–"train death paintings, anti-meth murals"–yet saw beauty in the banality; on last year’s "Content Nausea", released as Parkay Quarts, Savage yelled denunciations of the digital era in excited bursts, like a smalltown newsreader reporting alien landings.
Hell-bent on grappling with moderate success on their own terms, Parquet Courts open Monastic Living with the straightforwardly titled "No, No, No!," which finds them rejecting everything that can be stuffed into a 73-second song. Fair enough. However, after this fairly enlightened burst of primitive punk, the band settles into a numb groove that aims for No Wave devolution but arrives at little more than an audible grumpiness.
If you’re a bloody-minded artist of a certain stripe, success – even critical success, the kind you can’t take to the bank – can be a bitch. So it is with Parquet Courts. Their second album, 2012’s ‘Light Up Gold’, was a DIY triumph, a fusion of scuzzy shamble-rock and arch songcraft that saw the Texas-via-Brooklyn group compared favorably to Pavement and The Strokes.