ALBUM: Sunbathing Animal
ARTIST: Parquet Courts
An old-school punk rock sound has been on the rise in recent years with bands like Fidlar, The Black Lips, and, Wavves gaining momentum in the music world, and Parquet Courts with their second full album Sunbathing Animal is amongst these vivacious bands as they are starting to take a front row seat of attention. The band only being about four years old have had many releases over the year; however, their recent Light Up Gold gained a surprising amount of critical acclaim, lending itself to their hyped up new record. The band may be relatively new, but this relentless quartet is making waves with their bashing guitar distortion matched against appealing guitar riffs that clash in harmony to create a perfect American punk consensus. Sunbathing Animal still contains Parquet Courts’ recognizable sound of high intensity and electricity that may be reminiscent of The Ramones or, even The Misfits in some facets, but it also exposes a different light of the band with comfortable repetition and lackadaisical vibes reminding listeners that their sound can vary towards the opposite side of the spectrum of The Velvet Underground and Pavement. However, Sunbathing Animal needs no comparisons as Parquet Courts are expanding their sound to a whole new distinctive level.
Content of songs stretch in many directions, sparking ideas from physical anatomy on “Bodies made of” and “What Color is Blood” to conflicting love interests on “Dear Ramona” and the title track, “Sunbathing Animal”. The imagery that lead-singer and lyricist Andrew Savage illustrates is beautiful, although in some instances it may seem grotesque. The variation of simplicity to complexity creates a nice balance on the album. Some songs such as “Sunbathing Animal” paints an entire wall mural of a picture that tells a detailed and closed story, whereas tracks like “She’s Rolling” are the equivalent to a small newspaper cartoon that’s a bit vaguer and open for interpretation. Moreover, on majority of the tracks, the noise of the songs hinders the clarity of the lyrics, making it less important for the specifics of the content to be revealed, but for the interpretation and connection to be personal for the listener: which can be why an album like this is hard to rate. What is so captivating about this album is that many of the words Savage sings or yells, depending on the song, are expressed as though he is delivering spoken word sometimes, or reading a journal entry or letter. His lyrics are inaccessible in the sense that there is no definitive meaning laid out for the public; there are no hidden footnotes within the songs to decipher what their meaning is. But Savage’s tone and delivery is what draws one in at first, while the interpretation keeps the listener hanging around.
The production of many of the tracks tends to be very simple with some songs only having a few chord progressions to one single chord being played. There seems to be a signature formula in which the Parquet Courts concoct their sound: with jarring guitar strumming in the background, while a catchy guitar riff plays up and down. The drums keep the tempo alive and the bass is more dominant on some songs than others like “Up All Night”. Majority of the songs have a guitar solo to balance out the track, which is an exciting revival of classic rock ‘n’ roll, but in some cases this basic formula seems to be repetitive or hard to differentiate each track from the other. This does not make the album sound bad or make it any less tasteful to the ear, however when comparing song to song, one might start to see the abundant similarities. Overall, production and sound wise, Sunbathing Animal has great energy that either makes you want to mosh, jump around, and maybe wreck something, along with other moments that make you want to contemplate your life and ask questions.
The highlights of the album would be “Instant Disassembly,” “Bodies Made of,” and, “Dear Ramona.” “Instant Disassembly” would be the star of them all, shining in its lulling, depressive brilliance. The song has a sincerity within the lyrics that contrasts heavily against Savage’s brick-like voice. The track does not seem to try as hard as the other slow-paced songs and is a nice little underdog anthem.
Sunbathing Animal is a promising progression for the Parquet Courts in hopes that their popularity will grow without the band burning themselves out too soon. The album is fun and contemplative in many aspects, it wrestles with itself to be defined outside of the easy past rock and punk comparisons. But after a while, Sunbathing Animal gets hard and annoying to categorize within certain definitions of sound, thus killing the spirit of the music itself. The album should stand alone as, what the band calls “American” punk or rock and nothing else. With the band growing and their potential so promising, Sunbathing Animal should only be categorized as that American Parquet Courts sound. - Margaret Farrell
“I guess one thing you should know about me is that I don’t really see any point in defining [lyrics] for people, because part of the joy about being a listener is coming to meaning on your own. That’s an important part of the experience for me.” – Andrew Savage