Parquet Courts are a band with a unique and winning sound – their 00’s indie rock nostalgia noise manages to remain current and intriguing. The Brooklyn band have a back catalogue that rivals the best going and Sympathy For Life is no exception to this well-established rule.
The album was born out of pre-lockdown dance parties, an influence which is present throughout Sympathy For Life – as well as newfound interest in bands like Primal Scream and Talking Heads. Sympathy For Life is unique as a Parquet Courts record.
Opener ‘Walking At A Downtown Pace’ aligns itself with the more traditional Parquet Courts sound – as does ‘Black Widow Spider’, a fuzzy, upbeat cut with all the energy of your local indie club (Red Stripe, anyone?). PQ deviate from this formula of indie-bangers fairly quickly, with Andrew Savage announcing the change of direction on ‘Marathon of Anger’. A spook-funk delight, with echoey synths contrasting wonderfully with infectiously groovy guitar.
‘Just Shadows’ is another strong cut, with Parquet Courts fleshing out interesting indie grooves with meandering and weaving jams throughout. Sympathy For Life was recorded with the band mostly recording improvised jams – a recording technique that is a winner throughout the record. This “vibe-based groove meets dance music” theme is apparent on ‘Plant Life’: a track that plays out like a stoner jam, before PQ break into a pop chorus with dancefloor groove. A combo that really works throughout this album.
‘Application Apparatus’ is one of the more bizarre cuts, a robotic, futuristic track that aims for Public Service Broadcasting, but ends up a little more Flight of the Conchords at times. The track is ultimately saved as it becomes the more long form, jam-rock song: PQ are on to a winner here.
‘Homo Sapien’ is the pick of the bunch for me: back to the fuzzed-up indie stuff. The track is vintage Parquet Courts, sounding more like Parquet Courts than Parquet Courts do. It’s followed up by ‘Sympathy for Life’, which is surprisingly sexy number that inspires 70s sleaze as well as rhythmic funk.
‘Zoom Out’ sticks to the brief of the record. Another PQ banger with meandering jams, psychedelic tendencies and techno groove and ‘Trullo’ is a minimalist funk number with bongo, synth and wandering guitar parts. After a decade together, Parquet Courts are a well drilled unit with clear skill and talent, making Sympathy For Life a real pleasure to listen to throughout.
‘Pulcinella’ – the closer – is a moody, Americana-style ballad that grows into a melancholy beast of a track. It’s for sure one of the better PQ tracks and will doubtlessly be a favourite among fans- a track drenched in ‘closer energy’ like The Smith’s ‘Meat is Murder’, or Radiohead’s ‘The Tourist’.
‘Sympathy For Life’, is without doubt one of Parquet Courts’ great records among a series of great records. PQ are a band who are tight as fuck, with a wondrous mix of rock tendencies and left-field influences: a combo that has serious potential.
photo credit: Pooneh Ghana