Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Parquet Courts’ full debut is a thorny beast, wired and twitching with urgency and yet languorous and apathetic, either carved from, or scraped off of, the American backstreets and boulevards they call home.
When at their most tightly wound and rhythmically driving the songs threaten brilliance: the way the riveting garage-rock riffs of ‘Master of My Craft’ run into those of 'Borrowed Time' with a “One, two, three, four” is addictive, bringing a potency and urgency to the album’s movement that befits the rodeo imagery that adorns the cover. It’s a quality which sadly lacks by the record’s second side however, where individual moments of interest begin to clash with an increasing lethargy and monotony, embodying the loss of motivation and listless roaming which serve as recurring motifs. In the wake of the music’s flaws though, and to a fair extent overriding these issues, is the thematic and linguistic prowess of the lyrics.
Post-punk was born to be this poetic. Throughout, whether delivered by Andrew Savage or Austin Brown, Light Up Gold’s lyrics are droll and resonant - equally comfortable in realist romance (“My girl's a borealis-lit fjord […] My girl is a beer, freshly poured”) or reflections on the dystopic contemporary employment landscape: (“There are no more roles on TV shows, there are no road-cone dispensing jobs […] but there are still careers in combat, my son”). They’re rich at their most prosaic (“I was debating Swedish Fish, roasted peanuts or licorice”) and abstract (“I saw, while squinting, the hidden layer in those lost-era grain elevators”), and they’re the main reason to bookmark this band and return to this record. Tracks like ‘N Dakota’ and ‘Yonder is Closer to the Heart’ are almost better read as prose poems in fact, managing to register an authentic experience of Americana in a style reminiscent of both Jonathan Richman and the Beat poets, but all the same strikingly current and refreshingly individualist.
Ultimately, you find that you can only praise Parquet Courts so far. The melodies and moments of musical captivation they conjure are thrilling, but they feel worn down over the course of the record by a searching, languorous quality that leaves a sense of frustration… and yet you come out feeling completely spoilt and utterly bowled over by their sublime lyrical-work. But a contradictory response seems to be the only valid option: it’s a surprisingly complex record produced by a surprisingly complex band, a quartet of pioneers/stoners looking at the stars whilst lying in the gutter.