Before Wide Awake! was officially announced, Parquet Courts’ Andrew Savage had stated that their new album would be full of “Rippers”. Parquet Courts’ typical sounds of underproduction have been swapped for something more stereo. Now we have the final product, does it rip? Indeed it does, whatever that means.
Wide Awake! feels as though Parquet Courts are stepping into new shoes. There’s familiar characteristics in Savage and Austin Brown’s songwriting but they feel refreshed like new men. There’s a hopeful attitude on the album, the band themselves wanting to express their anger, “Constructively but without trying to accommodate anyone”. ‘Total Football’ opens with a signature Parquet Courts venom which sounds more focussed on Wide Awake!
It’s like growth for Parquet Courts, like a bookend to their previous work, the first chapter of a new story. Perhaps this is down to having Danger Mouse in the production chair, which focusses the energy of the band. Their last album, Human Performance, in hindsight feels like the stepping stone from the band they were when they started in 2010 to the band they’ve become on Wide Awake! Not that this implies any stark contrast; it’s instantly recognisable as the same band, just more comfortable in their own skin.
As promised, when Wide Awake! Rips, it rips hard. ‘Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience’ sounds like Andrew Savage is having the fight he’s trained years for. ‘Normalization’ comes in a familiar fashion. It’s the sound of frustration from a band fed up with nihilism.
Musically the real hero of Wide Awake! is bassist Sean Yeaton. There’s so much excellent bass playing on Wide Awake!, the title track feels like the first ‘Sean’ song from the band. It’s probably the most straight-up pop song Parquet Courts have done, which is a really nice change of pace for the band. The gang vocals are like the band declaring the new phase.
All of the fast paced ripping nature of Wide Awake! is balanced very nicely by its softer numbers. ‘Mardi Gras Beads’ and ‘Death Will Bring Change’ feel tender and true with Austin Brown pouring himself out. Brown himself has said that the album is full of songs, “I’ve been wanting to write but never had the courage”.
The most noticeable point of growth is how the album closes. ‘Tenderness’ really marks something completely unexpected from the band. It’s upbeat to the point of almost being jaunty, it’s really feel good as well. Parquet Courts really are the only group going that can mix up their styles so much on an album and not have anything stick out in a way they didn’t want. Despite there being huge changes in songwriting, moods and sounds throughout, all of it makes sense. They’ve brought everything brilliant about the band together, developed all of those things and made an album with it. Wide Awake! is a brilliant record that I doubt will age. Parquet Courts have made an album which invites you to grow with them. Where you found comfort in albums like Light Up Gold through to Human Performance you’ll find resolution on Wide Awake!