Key Tracks: “She’s Rolling” “Sunbathing Animal”
The men of Parquet Courts are growing older, but just in the sense that we all are. “Sunbathing Animal,” the second accessible full-length and third release from the band in barely a year and a half, shows hints at maturity. It’s a reluctant maturity, one of attempts at denial but eventual acceptance. The band, as they did on last year’s “Tally All the Things You Broke” EP, open up to more influences and more ideas. The always-terrific “Light Up Gold” mixed garage-rock and country influences, but was filled with a boundless youthful energy that is roped in and controlled here.
Parquet Courts seem to know that they can’t just keep playing hybrid country-punk forever. “Stoned and Starving” is one of the best songs in years, but at 5:12, it’s the only song on “Light Up Gold” that’s over 3:30. Of the 13 songs on “Sunbathing Animal,” five break that threshold, with two more only seconds away. The band is, in one way, slowing things down and introducing some more developed songwriting. “Bodies Made Of” starts the album on a deceiving, medium tempo. “Dear Ramona” follows a narrative and shows more mature songwriting. “She’s Rolling” goes past six minutes, and “Instant Disassembly” past seven, with the latter being a pseudo-ballad and the former ending in crazy, layered harmonicas.
But in another way, they’re not slowing things down at all. They’re still a punk band, and “Ducking & Dodging” shows its love for 8ths and 16ths. Its “vocals over a drum and soft guitar line” is one of the most garage-y rhythms in years. The title track provides a volume and energy blast after the slow-burning “She’s Rolling.” And there’s musical interludes, just as on “Light Up Gold.” “Vienna II” and “Up All Night” provide brief break-ups throughout the album. “Sunbathing Animal” is more drawn-out, and more expansive, but it packs as many punches as their previous works.
“Sunbathing Animal” pairs nicely with “Light Up Gold,” as a band exploring the width of their own sound. “Sunbathing Animal” is no better or worse than “Light Up Gold,” and it doesn’t immediately demand any comparisons. It’s a lot more structured, and the band is more in control of their energy. It’s still very youthful and tongue-in-cheek, still fun but serious. “Sunbathing Animal” is a distinctly different album for the band, but it’s still definitively Parquet Courts. And that should be enough of a reason alone to pick the album up.
If you like this, try: together PANGEA’s “Badillac,” a less exciting (but still agreeable) example of a garage-punk band expanding.
-By Andrew McNally