On November 27th, Parquet Courts continue their stream of new releases with Monastic Living EP. The record is their first for legendary UK record label Rough Trade. With this fairly substantial jump up the industry ladder, one could expect the group to distance themselves from the rough four-track recordings of last year’s Parkay Quarts releases, delivering something more accessible to the general public. Long-term fans looking to cry ‘sellout’ need not worry: this EP is the most jarring musical transition they’ve made yet.
Over the course of Monastic Living, there are two title tracks that embody the spirit of the album and serve to highlight Parquet Courts’ current modus operandi. “Monastic Living I.”, is the most discordant, especially since it’s preceeded by “No, No, No!”, the only song here that could pass for early Parquet Courts. Most notably, it’s also the only song on the EP to feature vocals. “Monastic Living I.” plays out like a deranged tribute to Devo’s “Jocko Homo” (as filtered through the minds of Gregs Ginn or Sage). At its core, one hears the same maniacal herky-jerk rhythms that made the Are We Not Men? track so exciting, and the song slowly de-evolves into the type of transistored feedback that the above guitar heros delivered best in their prime.
“Poverty and Obedience” and “Prison Conversion” are equally distantancing, but don’t carry the same urgency as the “Monastic Living” suites. Instead, they are a window inside Parquet Courts’ practice space: mics in place, cassettes running, and the best ideas are the ones that survive and make it to Monastic Living. It’s the same sort of deliberate ineptness that made the late 80s lo-fi movement so engrossing. The closest parallel that can be drawn is the early work of New Zealand acts like Tall Dwarfs: occasionally, ‘other’ instruments that just happen to be lying around find their way onto the recording, mostly in the form of a blown-out keyboard run or a drum machine.
As proven on their earlier releases,Parquet Courts are more than capable of making an accessible record with all the edges rounded to perfection. It’s exciting to see them make this type of transition after moving to a label with so much more exposure on a global scale.
review by Evan McDowell