10th November | SWX

When Parquet Courts suddenly arrived on everyone’s radar with the sublime Light Up Gold, many things in our world that were perhaps in their prime at that time are only a fragmented memory of happier times in 2018. Obama was POTUS, the NME was still passionately circulating and gifting this writer an introduction to this very band, and a certain European Referendum was but a Plan Z in Cameron’s big ideas for ensuring voters’ faith. Now, six years on, the very landscape of our world has changed immeasurably, yet upon their return to Bristol, Parquet Courts prove that they remain a cherished source of intelligent perception, only prospering from their rejection of systematic need for change, whether live or on record.

The new record is welcomed hungrily by the ungovernable crowd. Immediately, the songs fit in prosperously with both their more sardonic and enlivening moments, capturing a balance of both. ‘Total Football’ is perhaps the most fitting opener to replace ‘Master of My Craft’, a shrewd yet openly brazen take that ends euphorically with the crowd joining Andrew Savage in chanting “fuck Tom Brady“. ‘Almost Had to Start A Fight’ may just be the closest notion to their earlier work, and here it glows with unkempt scrappiness as the crowd begin to surf on top of one another with wild abandon.

Despite some unneeded and disorderly fighting taking place down the front, it doesn’t spoil what is possibly one of the best sets to take place at SWX yet. The band are shrouded in simple yet utterly enrapturing lighting that encases their shadows in a cinematic trail of hallucinogenic spotlights. It’s like a heady and unnerving presentation from Pearl & Dean, and gives the band a new sense of fullness that perhaps has been missing from their live set previously.

Austin Brown, who these days you could easily misidentify for Beck with his bowl-hair cut and overly large sunglasses, perhaps epitomises the band’s clear indifference towards fitting the icy coolness of their music. As ‘Wide Awake’ arrives, he dances around his synth board, whistle in mouth, shouting alongside Sean Yeaton, who acts as the centrepoint for crowd interaction as he sings along, while rattling out that primal melodic bass line with aplomb. Andrew Savage remains their unassuming focal point, his brisk and forthright delivery a pleasingly stark contrast to the often poetically elusive yet rich imagery of his lyrics. ‘Freebird II’ is an unequivocal highlight, Savage and crowd bellowing, “Free, I feel free like you promised I’d be”.

What’s most pleasing about Parquet Courts is their subtle ability not to let you in on what direction they will head in next. ‘One Man No City’ from Human Performance is transformed into a ten-minute wig-out of stadium-sounding guitars and a real hint of early 70s psych. It would seem self-absorbed if it wasn’t so sharp and well rounded. And as they follow it up with a maniacal ‘Light Up Gold II’, that’s over in a comparative blink of an eye, you realise just how gratifying it is that they don’t let you in on their secrets. This band can simply continue as they wish, we’ll be happy.

See Parquet Courts perform ‘Total Football’ live here: