Parquet Courts are a band that sounds pleasantly out of time, but never in a nostalgic way. There’s no band or sound that the group take their form from — their approach merely invokes a feel that has more in common with 1978 New York than 2014. The band makes guitar music, and feels completely free of the burdens a that guitar bands face today as perpetrators of a so-called dying art. Their music doesn’t merely sound like a few boys plugging in and “rocking” – rocking occurs, but in a way that is unmistakably artful.
But more so than it being art rock, it’s also fun and carefree. Take Content Nausea, the album made mostly by Parquet members Adam Savage and Austin Brown. Delivered mere months after the band’s Sunbathing Animal, the record has a refreshing vibe of “Well, we have more songs, let’s just record them and put them out.” Even the artist credit shows the group having fun with expectations – this album is by Parkay Quarts, the group’s sometime used (semi-homophonic) pseudonym (likely used this time out of respect to the group’s normal rhythm section sitting out).
There is nothing on Sunbathing Animal or Light Up Gold that would give any impression that the band are not following their muse, but there’s something especially innocent and unpressured by Content Nausea. Some tracks are these weird little warped electrodes, others are masterful editions to the group’s catalog, and they all sit together in a wonderful way. Take the jumbling title track which finds Savage spouting a quick-spun vocal, sounding like an indie rock version of OutKast’s “B.O.B.,” which then follows with the murky, synth-based motif “Urban Ease” (the tune is later reprised as “No Concept”). “The Map” drops in the middle of the record with electronic beats over muddled guitar noise and beat poetry vocals, sounding like something Lee Ranaldo would have done on a non-existent mid ‘90s solo album. “These Boots” takes the Nancy Sinatra classic for a fun romp that’s feedback and horn outro is somewhere between Crispin Glover’s and the Boys Next Door’s take on the number.
The appeal of Content Nausea though is not simply its not-taking-itself-too-seriously aspects (again, this is not an issue on a “proper” Parquet Courts record either). Some of these tracks are just straight up beautiful rock songs. A song like “Pretty Machines” is so unclassifiable, yet so familiar. Chugging along at midtempo with a tickling guitar hook, it sounds like something off Lust For Life or even Heroes, but in a more garagey way than the manner in which James Murphy has borrowed from those records. The album’s closing track “Uncast Shadow of a Southern Myth” is another winner – a slow burn instant classic that feels profound even if its prose don’t necessarily click as a unified statement on first listen (“Of droves of pilgrims at his doorway/Of Reagan, Carter, Clinton, Gore” is a nice couplet, but one that Rock Genius hasn’t dissected yet).
When comparing Content Nausea to Parquet Courts quickly delivered body of work (three albums in three years!), it holds up, even if their previous two records will be seen as the classics. But they were smart in just keeping this one slightly out of the loop with the name change. It’s a fun little record on its own, and will hopefully be remembered in the group’s live show canon for their upcoming tour, as head-boppers like “Pretty Machines” and “Southern Myth” need to be heard in small clubs before these guys get too big to play them.