Rough Trade Records · May 18, 2018
Parquet Courts has always been a band that stuck with me. There is something about their brand of Brooklyn-accented, urbanite, garage rock-tinged art punk that has always resonated with me. While the band never made any extremely significant changes in their formula, their discography to date has been quite consistent, they have even hinted at brilliance on occasion: it would be no exaggeration if I said that ‘Pretty Machines’ is one of my favorite songs of the decade. The band has carved out a unique sound for themselves which has ultimately served them quite well.
The lead single for the this album, the title track ‘Wide Awake’ seemed to signal something of a new direction for the band, being a vibrant new wave and dance-punk influenced track. The track hinted that the band was likely headed in a new direction, which was a hunch that turned out to be half right. Parquet Courts certainly experimented with divergent influences, but ‘Wide Awake’ is hardly indicative of the sound of the album as a whole.
Wide Awake! kicks off with ‘Total Football,’ an aggressive, punky, and energetic track with lyrics that concern the current controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem and the greater implications of the controversy surrounding it. It tackles the topic with a great deal of ferocity and passion and does not sound contrived, forced, or dated in the way that political lyrics often do.
The second track on the album ‘Violence’ features yelpy vocals and lyrics concerning and criticizing the culture of violence in our society; the track is backed by a shimmering organ which actually works well with the punk vocals. Another standout track on the album is ‘Mardi Gras Beads,’ which features very pretty, chilled, dreamy guitars forming the basis for its instrumental and an equally dreamy vocal line that perfectly compliments it. ‘Freebird II’ is an anthemic track that is more soulful that most of the band’s output while also retaining a good deal of a punk edge, which is perfectly restrained in the context for the song.
With Wide Awake!, the band adds another worthy entry into their already solid and consistent discography. The band does retain the better part of the formula that they’ve stuck to throughout their career though they do experiment with different influences. This is album that is very direct, engaging, and has a great deal of energy which never seems to slow down. Parquet Courts overall show no signs of slowing down with this album, which ultimately represents a very natural and fluid evolution of their sound.