IT'S UNFAIR when critics compare Parquet Courts to bands like the Modern Lovers and Wire. Despite the music's similar skeletons, it's a side-by-side, done with haste. After the fifth write-up I come across online, I can't help feeling there's more to say about these guys. Part of me believes we don't actually want another emulator of '70s post- and proto-punk, yet the past decade has saturated us with more nervy, torn-jean rock from New York City, more Joy Division drowsiness—to the point where it seems we're all drinking from the same well.
To be fair, I agree with one characteristic of most press I've seen: near-unanimous recognition that Parquet Courts are damn good. And their genre or style has less say in the matter than you'd think. They're the type of band that fosters excitement because of how young their music feels. I don't mean "youthful" or "inexperienced" or "energetic," but fresh, and in lucid, ambitious pursuit of a life full of craving, hunger, and curiosity. Multiple listens to Light up Gold, their recently reissued debut LP, make it increasingly difficult to simply regard them as a composite of punk-rock pasts.
"I think it's kinda wack when bands try to revive something that so far predates them, and that they had no hand in," says Andrew Savage, the group's frontman. "What I really wanted was to sort of redefine what it meant to be a New York band without falling back on nostalgia or lore."
It's rare that a band can both sound familiar and be wildly curious at the same time. Maybe it's their lyrics, which, without pointing fingers, subtly detail Generation Y's manifest destiny away from the status quo. The songs are directly about life, but indirectly, they're about student loan debt, the Kardashians, and every other form of societal rigor mortis. Parquet Courts conduct a unique trapeze act of not giving a fuck, while flourishing in their own visceral style of heart-over-brain intelligence.
"I think being in a band, choosing to be an artist, and not go down the conventional steps of adulthood are political enough," Savage says. "People think of political statements as being these grand and romantic gestures, but I think that most of my friends who choose to be artists and live outside of the typical trappings of American life are some of the more radical people I know."
The song "Stoned and Starving" immediately comes to mind. The premise is simple: Someone walking through Queens, stoned, searching through bodega store aisles, watching the night become more and more unnecessary. It's the type of song that, at a house party, inspires at least one guest to say emphatically, "I swear this song was written about my life last week." It's a salutation to the moments in life where we find ourselves cultural pariahs on the streets of a chic metropolis.
The question that keeps me listening, though, is this: How is it that, 50-some years after rock 'n' roll's sunrise, the guitar-driven howl of Parquet Courts effortlessly channels 2013's America? "America is a place that is both very beautiful and very ugly, which is the sort of duality I seek out in art," says Savage. "[The country] has a unique, sort of unidirectional focus when it comes to making art, especially rock music." The growing pains of that duality only fuel the relevance and the energy of Parquet Courts.