Gig Review and Photography by John Bentley

Parquet Courts

“Our goal is not to not be popular, but we have an opportunity to change the way things look and sound within this world, make music that people aren’t necessarily used to being exposed to”, said Parquet Courts’ singer and guitarist Andrew Savage, in an interview with The Guardian.

Parquet Courts

The band have had a spiky relationship with the media and seem to embrace wilful obscurity and a persistent quirkiness, for example, releasing their first album only on cassette so that people have to listen slowly and more deeply. And they don’t do Twitter. To maintain a level of confusion, many of their songs have alternative titles and the band sometimes bill themselves as ‘Parkay Quarts’. However, the US band’s non-commercial stance has obviously not been entirely successful, if the packed out hall of enthusiastic punters at the Academy is any indication.

Eagulls

Support band tonight is Eagulls, a five piece from Leeds. Coming on rather late, their scheduled half hour set is truncated – “Sorry, we’re not allowed to do any more”, is the apologetic parting comment from lead singer, George Mitchell. They nevertheless deliver a well received full-on punk-inspired set. The guitars sound a little like The Cure at times. Mitchell, with his serious stance, overcoat and neat haircut bears a slight resemblance to the late Ian Curtis and his presence commands the stage.

Parquet Courts

It’s well after nine-thirty when Parquet Courts eventually make their entry, casually dressed like your average indie band. Guitarist Austin Brown sportingly wears an Eagulls T-shirt and they thank their support act. Just in case we think this is going to be a straight celebration of their surprise ‘hit’ album of 2013, ‘Light Up Gold’, the first three songs are all unreleased, as far as I can work out. First song ‘She’s Rolling’ is comparatively long and slow-paced for Parquet Courts – the 15 songs on the album averaged out at just over two minutes each. The twin guitar style also demonstrates one of their influences – Tom Verlaine’s band Television. Fourth song in and at last we do get something familiar – the chugging ‘Master of My Craft’, lead-off track from the album, followed by ‘Borrowed Thyme’, with its several false endings. Live they skilfully segue the two songs together, as on the album.

The batch of album songs includes one of their most barbed, yet amusing, ‘Careers in Combat’. Here Savage list the employment that is no longer available to the job seeker, like roles in TV shows and park rangers, but assures us that “there are still careers in combat, my son”. The catchy song gets over its stark message while only lasting a minute. Soon after, a shoe lands on the stage, to the band’s bemusement. After some discussion with the audience, bass player Sean Yeaton returns it to its owner.

Parquet Courts

It’s not too hard to pick out the band’s other influences – for example, there’s British punk rock of the speediest kind and some seminal 80s and 90s US bands like Sonic Youth (guitar experimentation, feedback and distortion), Pavement (great tunes, with loose structures that almost fall apart) and Beck (world weary slackerism). And then there’s also The Velvet Underground. However, Parquet Courts’ genius is to recast all this into something original, exciting and really interesting.

I first heard Parquet Courts on a monthly ‘sampler’ CD given away with a well-known music mag. The featured track was ‘Stoned and Starving’ and I kept playing it again and again, and within a week I bought the parent ‘Light Up Gold’ album. They’ve been my favourite new band for some time now and the album is on the CD player on a daily basis. Every play it seems to sound better. ‘Stoned and Starving’ is the track which most suggests the influence of The Velvet Underground, spliced with some Television inspired guitar. The live version tonight is far rawer and faster than on the album and Savage is really howlin’ towards the end – not sure what he’s singing, but he sounds pretty cross. The tune’s obviously popular with other people besides me, as it draws big applause and triggers off the first bout of crowd surfing. Great credit is due to the rhythm section of bass-player Yeaton and drummer Max Savage, who provide a solid groove around which the twin guitars crash and whirl throughout the evening.

Parquet Courts

I would guess they’ll be a new album out soon, judging by the number of new / unreleased songs played. It’s difficult to digest new material on one hearing, but one of the most impressive seems to be ‘Duckin’ and Dodgin’, with it’s stabbing rhythm. It’s slightly disappointing that there’s not much tonight from the snappily titled and excellent EP released last year, ‘Tally All The Things That You Broke’. We only get two of its songs, including the foot tapping ‘You’ve Got Me Wondering Now’. Unfortunately there’s no ‘He’s Seeing Paths’, the great loopy rhythmic finale to the EP, with its rap-style vocal and funky feel, evoking memories of ‘Loser’ era Beck – the track seems rather uncharacteristic of the band (which is especially commendable, if you don’t want to be predictable).

Manchester is one of only three UK dates on this tour. The band have previously expressed some antipathy towards things British, but have recently backtracked on this. Maybe it’s because they are finding out that the UK has a long tradition of adopting maverick US acts, a history that has seen us embrace bands from The Jimi Hendrix Experience to Pixies.
The whole set lasts just over an hour and there’s no encore. Well you wouldn’t expect Parkay Quarts to make such a pointless showbiz gesture, would you? Anyway, great stuff – roll on the release of the new album and another UK tour, I say.

Parquet Courts

Setlist (thanks to www.setlist.fm): She’s Rolling; Bodies Made Of…; Black and White; Master of My Craft; Borrowed Time; Donuts Only; Yr No Stoner ; Careers in Combat; (new song, with lyrics, ‘I Was Back In Town’); Stoned and Starving; Dear Ramona; You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now; Descend (The Way); Vienna II; Duckin and Dodgin; Yonder is Closer to the Heart; Light Up Gold; Sunbathin’ Animal.

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