For a band who've surely gotten sick of the ol' Pavement comparisons, Parquet Courts have really done one better than that opening blast of noise that Malkmus and co. unleashed on "Texas Never Whispers" some 2 decades ago. Dropping the new EP -- but it's 30 minutes long, so not too shabby, boys -- Monastic Living on Rough Trade Records next week, the Courts have offered up a real big middle finger to fans and foes alike. This is a bigger "F.U." than releasing an album under a different name. That said, I sort of like this one despite wanting to hate it.
Yeah, here's the thing: Monastic Living is vital and all that but it's also an instrumental release nearly all the way through. In some cases, like on the slow-burn of "Prison Conversion", that's a plus as the music takes on a certain aggressiveness that vocals would only possibly diminish. Somehow, without a singer, the guys in Parquet Courts have made what could be spikier music than anything on Sunbathing Animal. On the wonderfully-titled "Frog Pond Plop" there's almost a sense of catharsis in the din, while on the downright creepy "Vow of Silence" the band approaches a sort of Throbbing Gristle-like bliss, joining the company of Genesis P. and his/her crew in the service of music that is not necessarily loud but which is altogether disturbing. When you listen to this all the way through a second time, the near-vocals on "No, No, No!" actually seem like a distraction from the chaos.
Monastic Living was never gonna win Parquet Courts any new fans -- heck, they will probably lose a few with this one! -- but that was never the point. This is as bold as indie can possibly get these days without morphing into something else entirely. If the textures and riffs here are borderline rock 'n' roll it's only 'cause the EP is short and easily digested. This is music to be admired perhaps more than loved but, honestly, I did end up embracing this despite every intention of being angry that I was listening to a great rock band go rogue and clam up.
Out next Friday on Rough Trade Records, Monastic Living by Parquet Courts is one of this year's most challenging releases, and perhaps one of its best too.