On 2018’s ‘Wide Awake!’, Parquet Courts drifted closer than ever before to the mainstream. Joyful, danceable tracks, vintage pop melodies, even football whistles got a look-in. So on ‘Sympathy For Life’ the band had a choice: continue their ascent towards accessibility, or double down on their cult appeal. Suffice to say, ‘Sympathy For Life’ is not a pop album. Indeed, in their efforts to distance themselves from general appeal, Parquet Courts have also abandoned conventional structures. Tracks like ‘Marathon Of Anger’ and ‘Plant Life’ aren’t comprised of verses and choruses, but rather layers of sound, switching on and back off, rising and then falling away. These minimal, stuttering tracks are a glimpse of a very different kind of Parquet Courts album, but they’re bookended by the garage rock that is the band’s stock-in-trade. ‘Zoom Out’ and ‘Homo Sapien’ are fine additions to the group’s canon, but don’t add anything here, just muddle the record’s message. One exception can be made for closer ‘Pulcinella’. The band have a history of ending their albums with earnest, gut-punch closers, and this is no different. Andrew Savage sings of masks, and asks who he is when he’s not “a clown”. It’s a rousing ending, and one of the few mesmerising moments on the album: it’s just a shame that the band don’t commit to one route or the other.
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