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Ear to the Ground: Parquet Courts’ “Black and White”

The Brooklyn indie rockers import ’90s sounds to fuel the fires of 21st-century paranoia and demonstrate how discordance can be anthemic.

If you have yet to hear the new album Sunbathing Animal by Brooklyn indie-rock quartet Parquet Courts, “Black And White” is a great place to start. The second track from their sophomore long-player ignites with robust riffs and nasty amp distortion. But the rhythm section’s nervous, post-punk propulsions and the slightly out-of-tune slop strumming from Andrew Savage and Austin Brown reveal that the band still has a thing for Pavement’s thing for the Fall.

This is not to say that “Black And White” or any of the other songs on Animal hinge entirely on ’90s nostalgia. Instead, Parquet Courts build on those bygone slacker trappings to expand their songwriting into 21st-century realms of angst, paranoia, and exhaustion. It’s a noticeable contrast with the more whimsical and fun-loving tunes from their 2013 debut, Light up Gold.

Brown’s “guitar solo” here draws deep from Thurston Moore’s bag of tricks. Rather than playing notes and chords, he steps on something that makes his feedback squeal like a pained pig pumped full of steroids. It fits perfectly with Savage’s unsettling, panicked lyrics as he desperately yells, “It’s a vulgar, hidden part of being tethered to the world right now/ Spending all my dollars to remain a member/ Nothing in my eyes but a scowl.” Not since the Gun Club has indie rock sounded so burning, urgent, and dangerous.