By Jonathan Fuchs, Copy Editor
[Rough Trade; 2016]
Key Tracks: “Outside,” “Steady In My Mind,” “Two Dead Cops”
Last year, post-punk band Parquet Courts released the EP Monastic Living which, for many, felt like the sonic equivalent of the middle finger. It had some interesting moments, but too much of it felt like a non-experimental band making an experimental release just to seem “edgy” or “cool.” Fortunately, this year the band lands back on track with its fifth album Human Performance, which sees Parquet Courts go back to the sound it knows best while still being able to surprise fans with a much cleaner feel.
Right from the opening track, “Dust,” it’s obvious that Human Performance is less like Parquet Courts’s usual material. A lot of the songs aren’t as loud or intense as to be expected, with some even going for a sound comparable to The Velvet Underground. While the band’s usual artful, gritty atmosphere is still prominent on tracks like “I Was Sill Here,” a good portion of the album feels smoother than past albums like Light Up Gold and Sunbathing Animal.
While the first half of the album is loaded with some of the band’s best tracks yet like “Outside,” “Paraphrased” and “Steady On My Mind,” chunks of the record feel almost like an incomplete experience. Songs like “Captive of the Sun” and “Keep It Even” are short and forgettable, instantly going to the next track and leaving the listener with a sense of confusion. This problem only takes up a small percentage of the record, but it sticks with the listener throughout its runtime, making it a huge distraction.
Human Performance is not even close to Parquet Courts’ best album, but it’s clear evidence that even after five albums, the band’s as determined as ever to explore new sounds and release great music. As faulty as Human Performance can be, there’s no denying that it has the look and feel of a Parquet Courts record.