Parquet Courts are renowned for creating albums quickly, they have just unleashed their fifth in three years. Their latest offering, Human Performance, follows a mere five months after Monastic Living, an overtly experimental and challenging collection of predominately instrumental compositions. The latter was undeniably hard to listen to in its entirety, and was a little unsettling as it posed a bump in the band’s otherwise flawless trajectory. Fortunately, Parquet Courts have returned gallantly, producing an album that is their most rhythmic, lyrically interesting and overall outstanding piece of work.
Newcomers to the punk-infused New York quartet, often cited alongside Black Lips and Ty Segall, will find that Human Performance is a welcoming introduction to their sound. It is certainly Parquet Courts’ most coherent and commercially accessible anthology of songs that dissect the behaviour and fractious relationship between a man and the architecture of his disparaging mind. Content Nausea was the perfect prelude for Andrew Savage to sing (sometimes shout) about anxiety in more depth.
That is not to say that wit is absent from this album, Savage has upheld his penchant for writing songs inspired by the banalities of everyday existence. Notably, in a poetic nod to housekeeping, ‘Dust’ provides the wry observation, “Dust is everywhere / Sweep / It sneaks in ignored.” There are several instances of relatable realities that resonate; break-ups (‘Steady On My Mind’, ‘I Was Just Here’), travel (‘Berlin Got Blurry’) and the unavoidable, late-night self-explorations and doubts (‘Keep It Even’, ‘One Man, No City’). The mood of each song is complimented by lively guitar rifts and uplifting drum beats.
Thematically and lyrically these songs are their most mature and personal, to date. The title track, ‘Human Performance’ is a beautifully written song that deals with the hangover of heartbreak, “Breathing beside me, Feeling its warmness, / Phantom affection gives a human performance.” It is a rare insight into the softness and sensitivity that co-exists with the brash intensity synonymous to Parquet Courts’ unmistakable, loud sound.
Unlike the discographies of the majority of contemporary bands, there is a definite continuation and distinct relation (Monastic Living being the exception) throughout Parquet Courts’ songs and albums. For instance, ‘Steady on My Mind’, can be listened to, and interpreted as a resolute response to ‘Dear Ramona’, from their 2014 album, Sunburnt Animal. This device strengthens the relationship between the band and the fans.
Parquet Courts have excelled with Human Performance, there are so many highlights in the 46 minutes. Songs that will never become exhausted after continuous cycle of listen-repeat include ‘Captive of the Sun’, ‘Outside’, and the digital only bonus track, ‘Already Dead’, which marries the experience of music from the point of view of musician and audience member. An experience that makes you excited for what is to come as the band continue to prosper in the key of New York.