Parquet Courts’ Black Cat Show Was Raggedly Sublime

Parquet Courts

These days, Parquet Courts face the inverse challenge to what they were dealing with in late 2012, when Light Up Gold put them on the map.  Back then, the question was whether the manic splendor of their live shows could be bottled and served up on vinyl, beer reek intact.  Two albums and an E.P. later, the question last night was whether a young act that has created some of the greatest recorded music of the past two years could have the tonal precision of that sound and those songs translate well live.

Regrets, we have a few, and when queried on our death bed, we know that ranked high among them will be our not having put Sunbathing Animal on the 2014 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c).  And that wasn’t even their only album last year!  We must have been birdwatching or something, but somehow we missed the release, late in the year, of Content Nausea, which while not a Parquet Courts album proper — it was essentially a dual album made by Andrew Savage and Austin Brown — revealed a band that in a single year had emerged as a recording act justifying its titular sobriquet as “The Most Interesting Band In America.”  So how would *this* sound translate in a packed Black Cat where Parquet Courts were now headliners?

Andrew Savage’s voice was rubbed raw — he said it was due to an ill-advised karaoke competition.  When it all worked, such as on simpler thrashers like “Ducking And Dodging” and “Borrowed Time,” the skewed and sweaty dive bar ethos rang true, the house rocked, the crowd roared, clouds of sweat were formed.  But songs more dependent on getting the perfect vocal and guitar tone (say, “Black and White”) suffered a bit and brought to mind the irony that this magnificent punk band might best be heard through its studio output.

If Tom Verlaine were the Dalai Lama, and the body of monks were assembled to choose his successor, unquestionably Austin Brown would be the prodigy who would correctly identify his plectrum from a pile of confederates.  Our love of Parquet Courts circa 2015 stems from their having moved from Denton, TX to Brooklyn, NY and, as they gathered chops, decided to channel the sounds of circa 1977 Television on an epic night in the Bowery.  They are so much more than a band offering a derivative of New York at the end of the ’70s — to begin with, few are the artists who place as much energy and emphasis on intelligent lyrics as Andrew Savage does.  That they’ve thoroughly incorporated the Marquee Moon dynamic — not just the guitar work, but the dumb-boy choruses as well — makes us revel in their glory.  And this: hearing a song like “Everyday It Starts” — which on Content Nausea had basically fill-in drums, but last night had the full propulsion of Max Savage living up to his name — makes us realize these guys, when at their best, could give the Entertainment-era Gang Of Four a run for their Bitcoin.

So it wasn’t a perfect show because Andrew Savage wasn’t in the finest vocal fettle, and having seen them in front of 100 people in 2013, we know how amazingly they can play live when the stars are aligned.  And our expectations have been raised by the genius exhibited on their prodigious recorded output.  But if one wanted to confirm or deny whether the Parquet Courts were deserving of being Spin Magazine‘s 2014 Band of The Year?  Yeah, based on last night, totally.

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