4. Parquet Courts – Wide Awaaaaake!
On paper, the sixth outing by critically adored Brooklyn band Parquet Courts doesn’t seem to support the argument for the album as a cohesive art form. It careens in nearly as many musical directions as there are tracks, kicking off with the Clash-like call to arms “Total Football” before swerving from Pink Floyd-scented psychedelia (“Mardi Gras Beads”) to bass-heavy disco-funk (“Wide Awake!”) to cinematic ‘60s pop (“Death Will Bring Change”) along the way. Yet perhaps more than any other album on my best-of-2018 list, it needs to be absorbed as a whole. Heard out of context, the frenetic verbal onslaught of the second track, “Violence,” might give the impression that the four group members are overly caffeinated, earnest-to-a-fault art-punks. (A random scan of previous releases would likely not dispel this notion.) Likewise, on its own, the mellow-rockin’ “Freebird II” might peg them as a Modern Lovers tribute act with a secret fondness for Lynyrd Skynyrd. But as produced by Danger Mouse, who has worked with artists as disparate as the Black Keys, Norah Jones and ASAP Rocky, it all sounds strangely of a piece. The bigger picture presented by Wide Awaaaake! – I double-checked and triple-checked the spelling of the title before typing this – is that of a quartet of brainy subversives whose disdain for sameness becomes the connecting theme. The journey from first track to last is not for the meek – the vocals on such songs as “Violence” and “Normalisation” are as abrasive as any by punk icons like Black Flag or the Minutemen. But intrepid listeners will be amply rewarded.
[Blogger’s note: *Amid alarming reports on the demise of the album, I humbly submit my picks for the best full-length releases of 2018. I’ll post them one at a time over the next few weeks, hopefully getting to #1 before Valentine’s Day! Want to save the album? Then go out and purchase a vinyl LP – or a CD, if you must – from a real bricks-and-mortar shop. Don’t just stream random tracks to your phone! Read my extended rant on the subject here.]