They've hooked up with producer Danger Mouse, and have artwork and band photos in a new, Eighties-style color scheme so, yeah, Parquet Courts have entered that dangerous phase of wanting to do a band reinvention. I suppose that's good; far too many comparisons to Pavement in reviews of earlier records from this crew, and, obviously, no one is going to compare Wide Awake!, out Friday on Rough Trade, to a release from Malkmus and the boys.
Yes, "Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience" bristles with a kind of infectious energy, and it's the sort of refinement of this band's approach that suggests a need to set things moving in a new direction. If anything, Danger Mouse has made things clearer in the group's sonic attack, the vocals and instruments perfectly separated in the headphones to offer up a listener a burst of jittery pleasures. Opener "Total Football" seems to me to be one of the band's very best songs to date, A. Savage's Richard Hell-like performance on the mic brushing up against a backing band that's part Fall circa "Hit The North", even as the chorus recalls that big hit from The Godfathers back in the dawn of college rock. It is, frankly, the sort of track that screams "bid for a wider audience", even as it plays to the considerable, and familiar strengths of this band. Elsewhere, "Freebird II" sees a smart-ass title wedded to a rather lovely melody, while "Death Will Bring Change" is art-rock by way of Ray Davies, an imagined run at an early Roxy tune by a bunch of Muswell Hillbillies. If the title track of Wide Awake! largely failed for me -- too much Remain In Light without the musical chops to back it up -- lots of this album works in small doses, even if it's not nearly the sea change this band believes it to be.
Wide Awake! is an okay record. I didn't love it, nor did I hate it, but I suppose it's going to get highly rated by critics who see it as a rather bold stylistic change for this post-punk crew. In offering up the best production this band has ever had, Danger Mouse may have inadvertently highlighted the relative paucity of real hooks in the Parquet Courts quiver. There's a lot of busyness on Wide Awake, but don't mistake that for progress.
Wide Awake! is out on Friday via Rough Trade.
[Photo: Ebru Yiliz]