DO I like Parquet Courts's Sunbathing Animal because it is good on its own merits, or is it because I love Pavement and these guys so obviously do as well?
One note from the opening riff of ‘Dear Ramona’ and one word from vocalist Andrew Savage, and it all just screams Steven Malkmus. The ghost of Lou Reed is also audible (a man who also haunted Malkmus’s own writing and vocal delivery ), and both The Velvet Underground and Pavement can be heard in the epic ‘Instant Disassembly’.
Not since The Frames’s ‘Pavement Tune’ and the album Dance The Devil have a band so unashamedly and transparently worn their Malkmus & Co influence on their sleeve. Yet there is a difference.
The Frames’ trick was to sell alternative rock styles to an unsuspecting mainstream, making themselves appear ‘edgy’ and ahead of the curve by doing so. Hard core indie fans saw through it. Pavement’s heyday was 1992 to 1997. Two years later Dance The Devil was released and Pavement called it a day.
Parquet Courts, however, are among a generation of bands for whom 1990s are a rich source of influence. They are also death-before-dishonour indie, making no concession to mainstream tastes with their raucous, energetic, raw and rowdy garage rock, and cryptic, clever lyrics. From the riff of the brilliant opener ‘Bodies Made Of’ onwards, the band display a musical and lyrical confidence, as well as a confidence of approach that helps assuage the doubts.
Sunbathing Animal is the New York quartet’s third album, a period when bands need to move into a sound more their own rather than anybody else’s, and while Pavement are the chief influence, there are other things happening on this record.
'Up All Night’ is a brief, effective, post-punk instrumental. Thumping punk meets sixties r’n’b in ‘Black & White’ and ‘Ducking & Dodging’, an approach taken to more frantic levels on the mile-a-minute rhythms of the title track.
Most impressive though is ‘Raw Milk’. Although bearing clear Pavemernt/Velvets hints, it steps out of those shadows through the ominously slow rhythms, which build into the hypnotic, psychedelic swirl of the chorus: “Tulips dances for me like/Dervish whirling in my eye/spin around me, rabbit child/I won’t see you for some time.”
Yes, these guys love Pavement and so do I, but they do enought here to convince that the Parquet Courts cause is worthy of your support.
Parquet Courts's Sunbathing Animal is out now on Rough Trade.