Starting life as a genetic mutation of late 70’s post-punk, Parquet Courts’ new currency is groove-heavy psychedelia – the kind you might file somewhere in between Talking Heads and Primal Scream. We’re here for it, and we’ll be there for it at Albert Hall on 12 June, when the New York band will perform tunes from their latest album Sympathy For Life alongside older gems.
Built largely from improvised jams, inspired by New York clubs, and produced in league with Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Hot Chip, David Byrne) and John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Dry Cleaning), Sympathy For Life was always destined to be dancey. Unlike its widely loved predecessor, 2018’s Wide Awake!, the focus falls on grooves rather than rhythm, with drum machines and other electronics integral to the album’s fabric. “Wide Awake! was a record you could put on at a party,” says frontman Austin Brown. “Sympathy For Life is influenced by the party itself.”
Lyrically, the band have always leaned into the dehumanising nature of human’s quote-unquote progress, and this album is no different in that respect. Here they’re particularly preoccupied with technology, and how it impacts our sense of self. “Algorithm waltz sets the pace/Indicates an authentic taste/Tell me what I love,” Savage sings in ‘Just Shadow’, speaking to how our interests, and in turn who we grow to be, are shaped by our social media feeds. Elsewhere Savage returns, lyrically, to New York City, hoping to glean some kind of understanding from its streets.
In the video for early single ‘Walking At A Downtown Pace’, directed by acclaimed New York City street photographer Daniel Arnold, we see New York City from the vantage point of someone busily hurrying through it. “That’s what life can be like here”, says Savage. “A world of constant motion surrounds you while you’re just walking toward where you need to be. There’s a lot of beauty that can be missed, and it wasn’t until the streets were virtually empty that I did miss it.”
We feel that appreciation for community in the synth-heavy ‘Marathon of Anger’, which features the rally cries “We’ve got the power” and “It’s all community” – totally at odds with the slightly snarky, gaze-averting lyrics that populate most of the band’s older songs. But they feel at home on this album, with its freewheeling syncopation, its newfound space, its general sense of musical liberation. This is a sweeter, funkier, happier Parquet Courts – one you can genuinely have a boogie to. And if you’re so inclined, Albert Hall is the place to be on 12 June.