The record collects the 12 best songs from the band’s recent limited run of five EPs and features lyrics that are loaded with the overwrought emotion and hormone horror of a teen diary confessional. It’s full of wonderfully written lines, often intimate, sincere and grotesque, and sometimes weirdly anglophile (which other US band would use the phrase “middle-class slags of a certain age”?).
There’s always been a sense of tragic theatre about Parenthetical Girls, as if they’re part of a lineage that includes Marlene Dietrich and Morrissey. And fans of more recent acts such as Xiu Xiu and Former Ghosts will feel at home with tracks that veer from despair to outsider pride.
Opener ‘Evelyn McHale’ (she leapt to her death from the Empire State Building and landed on a UN limousine) sets the tone. But it’s not all maudlin melodrama, the collection contains some fantastic underground pop anthems: the electro ‘Careful Who You Dance With’, the perfectly Smiths-esque ‘The Pornographer’ and jangly ‘A Note To Self’ all stand out.
Perhaps the highlight is ‘Young Throats’, which includes a riff that would surely make a hit for a bigger band and could easily fit onto an Arcade Fire album.
Although ‘Privilege’ collates the band’s best work to date they still seem to have a relatively small audience in the UK. This could be because of their slight oddness and the occasional unconventional gender positioning in the lyrics, or maybe just because they haven’t toured much here. And while this album could be their best hope of finding a wider audience, for anyone who comes to appreciate the grace and dignity in Pennington’s words it will always sound like a very personal performance.