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Parquet Courts are versatile and raw on ‘Human Performance’

With their fifth studio album, Parquet Courts was able to successfully follow up their critically disappointing album, “Content Nausea,” with a solidly versatile, but staple-punk and mostly upbeat album in “Human Performance.”

Parquet Courts attracted attention for their new album by releasing three singles before its release, including the band’s track that first caught my ear: “Berlin Got Blurry,” a favorite of mine. The song perfectly encapsulates a punk sound with a western feel, mixed with modern-day lyrical discussions of cropping yourself out of pictures, as well as emailing (maybe not-so modern day?) On this new album, Parquet Courts is able to blend a classic punk style with a modern multifaceted approach, which features instruments such as the flute and xylophone. The album is littered with references to New York City, the home of the band; it reminds me of Lou Reed singing of 42nd Street in the Velvet Underground’s songs on their influential debut album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico.” These references coincide with instrumental parts of songs that remind me of 1960s Velvet Underground, which then mixes with the vocal similarities to Joe Strummer and The Clash.

The first track, “Already Dead” is only included on the digital copy of the album. This song, with a Mac Demarco style, sounds like a more upbeat and joyful Arctic Monkeys song. Like the majority of the songs on the album, this track includes interesting and top-notch guitar parts.

The album, at a very few specific points, does sound a bit gimmicky. However, the album’s title track is smooth and light. However, considering its softness, the production effects on the voice transform the song into a punk song, as does the powerful guitar patterns. The softness is continued in the next track, which also features chants that are sung in the background.

In the song “I Was Just Here,” it sounds as if the band is attempting, unsuccessfully, to sound like Beck. This, along with “Two Dead Cops,” is one of my least favorite tracks on the album.

“Paraphrased,” the first “purely” punk song on the album, in my opinion, is one of the song that the band is able to include their signature versatile sound. The track also includes great production, and is followed up by another solid track by the band, “Captive of the Sun,” This song, in the context of NYC, discusses the heavy themes of drug use, defeat and loss.

“Steady On My Mind” is perhaps the most melodic track on the album, understandably so as it serves as one of the only romantic songs on the album. The song features an attractive bass drum part that is not noticeable at first, but leaves the listener wondering how in the world the band came up with it. Lastly, the track is a solution of the perfect balance of instrumentation and vocals. In the same fashion, “One Man No City” is a similarly versatile song, instrumentation-wise. The song features guitar solos that sounds as if two guitar players are dueling for the most “classic punk” type of sound.

The album is perfectly concluded with two great songs, “Pathos Prairie” and “It’s Gunna Happen.” The first of the last two is lyrically complex, while also noticeably “bassy.” However, the track is followed up with an extremely melodic and slow song to conclude the album. The concluding track is wonderfully produced, as well as mellow, and ends the punk album in the band’s standard fashion: traditionally punk, but freshly versatile and raw.

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