Parquet Courts fell into a trap with Sunbathing Animal last year, which pretty much repeated the minor success they had encountered with Light Up Gold. However, they quickly followed Sunbathing Animal up with t Nausea, a mini-LP that was criminally underrated and more importantly, the proper follow-up to Light Up Gold. The band’s mini-LPs and EPs often allow Parquet Courts to become more experimental, dipping into noise-rock, southern goth-rock and a Nancy Sinatra cover, if you’re lucky. So it’s no surprise that Monastic Living is a collection of almost entirely wordless noise-rock songs, taking inspiration from the early Sonic Youth catalogue, minus huge walls of sound and more like super-skeletal guitar-bashing. Monastic Living aims for art-rock experimentation, but it comes off more like self-indulgent guitar wankery that lacks anything remotely interesting.
Andrew Savage, the main frontman for Parquet Courts, is mostly absent from vocals, except from the trick-first-track, which would probably confuse the listener into thinking this is your everyday Parquet Courts EP. Still, it’s only one minute long, so the enticing sound of the band rattling out a punky short song is fleeting at best, as it quickly descends into the second track – the lengthy and plodding ‘Monastic Living I’. The release would probably be a lot easier to consume if the band didn’t rely so heavily on distorted guitars and waves of sound colliding into each other, but ‘Monastic Living I’ is the first taste of a guitar-heavy EP. The band is a four-piece, but the rest of the band hardly make a dent and contribute to the consistent domination of Andrew Savage (and sometime frontman Austin Brown). The guitar repeats the same clumsy line over and over before the old friend feedback comes in to save the day, or at least that’s what Parquet Courts thinks will happen. There’s six and a half minutes of tooth-pulling before the track dies a quick death, transitioning into yet another series of Sonic Youth-esque hammerings of a poor guitar. The idea behind the album is reasonable – they want to make a noise-rock sidestep – but it’s so tedious and indulgent that there’s no reason to visit this EP.
Too many times do Parquet Courts come dangerously close to something that achieves what they want. ‘Alms For The Poor’, which resembles something from the Content Nausea mini-LP is so cocksure and funky it’s unlike anything else and deserves to be extended out and have some wordy lyrics tagged on, but it lasts one painfully small minute and fades out before anything can develop. Likewise, the electronic-inflected ‘Poverty And Obedience’ tempts out more influences, but yes, it’s one minute long. The longer tracks, like the painful ‘Monastic Living I’, ‘Monastic Living II’ and ‘Prison Conversion’ are the extended jams with no structure, but the more interesting tracks are one minute long. Either Parquet Courts have gone completely meta with this new release or they have no idea what kind of garbage they have produced. My guess is that this is a self-aware release, but there’s no point behind it. They haven’t had the major success to show the finger to their audience, so why put out a super-experimental and super-dull series of guitar squeals?
Monastic Living could have been a stepping stone to their next album; an art-rock gem that took the weirder moments of Content Nausea and built on them, but instead the band opt for a deconstruction of what they were good at (i.e. intelligent lyrics, punk) and go in the opposite direction. They can’t gain anything out of this other than self-satisfaction that they’ve messed with their audience and that’s not a good enough reason. This will only contribute to the theory that Parquet Courts are actually 90s slackers who will do anything to upset their audience. Monastic Living is dumb, indulgent and entirely unnecessary. Miss it out.
Funnel Recommends: Alms For The Poor / Poverty And Obedience