This week, the release of Light Up Gold, the debut album by New York natives Parquet Courts, happened to coincide with their first-ever LA show during their first-ever national tour. Strictly speaking, it’s a re-release, as the album came out on a very limited imprint back in August. Record label What’s Your Rupture? has repeated the same trick they pulled with Aussie punks Royal Headache last year by simply giving the album a proper release budget.
As evidenced by the band’s performance Tuesday night at a not nearly full enough Echo, the label has once again shown great judgement in flicking the spotlight on an under-appreciated band. It can’t last for long, though. Light Up Gold is an absolute corker of a debut. It’s an album of tightly coiled passion and lean energy, nodding to New York musical history but undercutting its sardonic viewpoint with a near-hyperactive delivery.
On stage, in front of an oddly quiet LA crowd, it seemed almost perverse for Parquet Courts to begin their set with a slow one that isn’t even on the album whose release they were celebrating. Order was soon restored, however, with a furious tear through album opener “Master Of My Craft” followed with barely room to catch breath by the glorious “Borrowed Time.” That song demonstrates two of the band’s most obvious qualities: an ability to pluck an utterly memorable chorus out of nowhere and ruthless editing.
Parquet Courts apparently doesn’t know how to allow a song to meander. Most of their songs, such as the panic-inducing “Donuts Only,” stop almost abruptly after a minute and a half. When they do decide to stretch their legs for more than a couple of minutes, it tends to be worth it, as proven by “Yonder Is Closer To The Heart” with its dynamic onstage delivery.
The band understandably seemed concerned at the lack of energy in the crowd at one time, but at least they proved that they don’t necessarily need to feed off an audience’s energy to deliver a great set. The four-piece was a blur of action for a lot of the time. Austin Brown and Andrew Savage seem to have an equal share of lead guitar duties (both seemed to enjoy ripping through the odd solo while the other played back-up) and lead vocals. Savage in particular lived up to the nature of his name, playing with a barely contained fury and an apparent disregard for the occasional malfunction with his equipment.
Everything great about the band was summed up in the set closer, “Stoned And Starving.” Already I can see the song playing a dual role in the band’s repertoire. On the one hand, it’s their calling card, a sing-along that glides along with supreme confidence on the back of two chords. On the other hand, it operates in a live setting the same way that “Vamos” used to for the Pixies. It’s a firm base on which live improvisation can be built, as proven when the band careered through 12 minutes of building momentum, guitar shredding and feedback, and lung-busting shouting that provided an exhilarating end to the set.
The crowd left quietly and far too politely, but at least there was a sense that they’d seen something pretty special. Parquet Courts is too good to stay small for long, and the ecstatic reception that’s being afforded to their debut is fully deserved. Indie punk bands of this calibre are few and far between, but the band certainly has the chops to generate the kind of attention afforded to the Strokes over ten years ago when they first arrived. Expect to see them at festivals over the summer. And if you do, please make some noise.
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