I’ve been a big fan of Parquet Courts since they released their major-label debut, Light Up Gold, in 2012. They consistently channel the raw energy of a punk band like The Stooges, while layering in clever wordplay and historical allegories in a more sophisticated manner. On their 5th album in as many years, Human Performance, Parquet Courts is out to prove that they are a serious band beyond their punk roots, with careful production and a more cohesive collection of songs.
Digital versions of the album include an extra opening track, “Already Dead”, which kicks us off with a spoken-word exercise in concentration, as the twangy and dissonant guitar riff breaks down into a swirling but structured full band jam. “Dust” follows as the album’s proper opening track, with ominous lyrics that describe an inescapable pollution over a pounding rhythm track. The beautiful title track follows next, with poetic verses penned by chief songwriter Andrew Savage contrasting the purifying, reverberated shouts of the chorus.
The remainder of the album never flags in its consistent approach to melodic but angularly disjointed rock tunes, from the bombastic exhortation of “Paraphrased” to the spaghetti-western guitars of “Berlin Got Blurry”, which also serves as the album’s most radio-friendly tune. Other highlights include the sentimental ballad “Steady on My Mind” and the conga-driven reggae send-up “One Man, No City.” The album concludes with a slow and poignant lounge ditty, “It’s Gonna Happen”, which serves as a nice cool-down from an energetic set of studio tracks from the Brooklyn band. Human Performance is a repeatedly enjoyable listen, and Parquet Courts remains at the cutting edge of modern alternative music.