There’s a word for Parquet Courts, the Texas-Philadelphia quartet who moved to Brooklyn, passed themselves off as natives and got involved in the underground music scene (plus some petty drug dealing to make ends meet). Who released their first LP in cassette-only format so that it will, as they said in one interview “force you to be patient and digest what you’re listening to.” Who got a reputation during promotional rounds of being difficult to photograph and giving snarky responses. A petty, overused word that all too often draws up images of lanky 20-somethings in Brooklyn sipping espressos with scathing attitudes to the mainstream.
But it shouldn’t be used. Not when 2010’s Light Up Gold firmly shut up any preconceptions and made them one of the most exciting new bands of the year.
Sunbathing Animal has enough to satiate the enthusiasm generated by that first effort, though perhaps inevitably there is a loss of focus as well; the opening two tracks feel as though they are trying to tick boxes with loud, rapid down-strokes on guitar and high hats riding through choruses. Vocalist Andrew savage says it best during ‘Bodies Made Of’ when he decrees “It’s my soul/ I wanna keep it on the inside.”
So far, so Vaccines. Once they calm down by ‘Dear Ramona’, things start to get interesting. Early ’90s groups like Pavement and Sonic Youth have been ascribed as influences before, though only ever as leaping off points; what has always made them standouts is their clear sense of fun and adventurous melodies, especially by guitarist Austin Brown who avoids any risk of songs becoming in any way wearisome.
The clear highlights are when they give themselves room to breathe on the album’s longer tracks ‘She’s Rolling’ and ‘Instant Disassembly’, where Savage cries out for ‘Mamacita’ as he revisits an emotional darkness with some of the best lyrics of the album. Not to say it’s all downer at this point – the title track is a fun four minute post-punk run of relentless drums, egotistically long guitar solos and almost-hoarse vocals. As the album winds down they deliver a surprising White Stripes-esque ‘Ducking and Diving’ that you feel was written in a particularly creative 30 minute burst.
Things end on a few disappointingly unambitious closers but they hardly leave a sour taste in the mouth. The album never gives the idea there was a need to live up to anything, instead they’re content to still have their fun in their genre while they still can before they inevitably reach a higher rung in their career.