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Album Review: Parquet Courts’ ‘Wide Awake!’ Combines the Rad Past With New Exploration

It’s everything and more.

Nicole Kitchens

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Parquet Courts have always been pretty angry, and on their newest release, they are still incredibly pissed off. And upon finding this out on my first listen of the album, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My initial doubts on the ability of “Wide Awake!” to completely rip things up, as Parquet Court albums should, were sprouted from a February announcement from the group that they were recruiting Danger Mouse to produce the record. Andrew Savage, singer and guitarist for the group, had said in a press release that the album had been written with “punk and funk” in mind, so for anyone aware of Danger Mouse’s production history (i.e. U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beck), it either seemed like a good choice for what might be the band’s most experimental album…or a complete disaster, having the possibility to destroy the raw fury that made the band so great to begin with. Seeing as how “Wide Awake!” has become one of the most memorable albums of the year thus far, my doubts were completely wrong.

“And fuck! Tom! Brady!” Savage screams on the opener track, “Total Football,” which is a culmination of capitalism, liberation, collectivism, and apparently, the NFL. If Jack White’s “Seven Nation Army” was voted as one of the best stadium anthems a few months ago, then consider “Total Football” the anti-stadium anthem of the year. Speaking of anthems, “Freebird II” carries the melodic organs of the beloved Lynyrd Skynyrd tune, standing out as one of the relaxed, beachier tunes of the album (along with “Mardi Gras Beads,” a nostalgic tune that finds Savage longing for a loved one). But of course, Parquet Courts is still as raucous as ever, mimicking the raving protester on the sidewalk, or even sounding at times like your parents fighting (see “Total Football,” “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience,” and “Normalization.”) “Violence” is a funk-laden, spoken word societal protest, and along with the groovy “Before the Water Gets too High,” finds the group remnant of The Clash at their peak.

This album is a huge success. Point blank. While I could go on and on with my usual ramblings of “a brilliant new artistic direction, mimicking that of experimental punk of yore, trekking the brave and untouched path somewhere along the lines of disco, punk rock, 60’s beach music and new wave while implementing the guidance of an award winning, prolific producer,” it’s as simple as this: Parquet Courts has magnified everything that made them rad in the past, and by bringing along a few new genres, have made themselves even better.

So if you haven’t yet, just go listen to the damn thing already.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Nicole Kitchens is a Journalism major at the University of South Carolina. She is an avid music writer and once received an Instagram like from Keith Richards -- she hasn’t stopped talking about it since. To read more of her reviews and features, visit her blog: https://www.theelectricblonde.com/. Also, follow her Hunter-Thompson-esque adventures on Instagram: @nicolekitchens

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