Following the April release of their acclaimed third studio album, Human Performance, Parquet Courts have hit the road touring, with precious few dates in the UK. On Monday 10th October they rocked up to Manchester Academy 2, with support from home-grown bands Eagulls and Goat Girl.
I was unaware of a second support act, so it was a welcome surprise when the night was opened by the thoroughly excellent Goat Girl. The four-piece originated in England’s capital and you can tell. There’s something indescribably “London” about ‘Scum’, the highlight of Goat Girl’s short set. If electric guitars had accents, the riff on ‘Scum’ was cockney.
“This young band seem to be confronting their (post-Brexit) homeland with an impressive bluntness”
Goat Girl’s cross-genre experimentation with rhythm felt not dissimilar to that of the Slits. Ditto with their layering of voices. This young band also seem to be confronting their (post-Brexit) homeland with impressive bluntness. I always enjoy a band with something good to complain about, so hearing the lyrics “how can an entire nation be so fucking thick?” was (literally and figuratively) music to my ears. In short, Goat Girl have gained a fan.
Where Goat Girl were relaxed, Eagulls were shy, but enigmatic. Quiet nerves gave a raw and dynamic quality to their fairly brief set. Within ten seconds of their opening track ‘Skipping’ my friend (who was unacquainted with the night’s acts) remarked on the resemblance between the Leeds four-piece and the Cure.
It’s certainly true that from Eagulls’ second record, Ullages (released earlier this year), comparisons can be drawn between the voice of frontman George Mitchell and that of Robert Smith. On Eagulls’ self-titled debut album, the vocals possessed a thrilling nervous energy: lyrics were spluttered and shrieked in a manner that could hardly be described as singing. Their 2016 follow up is much less frantic in this respect, the words are sung more deliberately and the Leeds accent is less distinct, obscured by a heavy echo.
This is not to say that either album translates better to a live setting than the other. The audience tended to jump and jostle more during tracks from their debut, but Ullages was the focus of Eagulls’ Manchester set, and its grand, intense tracks sent the crowd into a captivated trance. The student-heavy audience were also clearly charmed by the manner in which Mitchell would occasionally swig from a posh-looking bottle of red wine between tracks.
“Parquet Courts possess a casual elegance which was displayed nicely by singer/guitarist Austin Brown…”
Both Eagulls and Parquet Courts exhibit an intense energy, but it was the latter that managed to inject us with a proper dose of adrenaline. Opening with ‘Ducking and Dodging’, they began as they meant to go on: abruptly.
You could be forgiven at first for thinking that the music of this band is somewhat untamed. In reality, Parquet Courts possess a casual elegance which was displayed nicely by singer/guitarist Austin Brown. During ‘Dust’, he would reach one hand off from his guitar and coolly knock out a quick melody on a nearby keyboard, before returning to the guitar.
This was emblematic of the neat efficiency that is present in much of Parquet Courts’ music: no space is wasted. Slow or quiet moments were given a brief few moments for appreciation before the audience were shaken back into consciousness by the sharp barks of singer/guitarist Andrew Savage.
The set list was pleasingly diverse; while Human Performance was obviously the star of the gig, we were treated to generous helpings of both Light Up Gold and (especially) Sunbathing Animal. The crowd seemed especially stirred by ‘Borrowed Time’ and ‘Vienna II’.
“The familiar riff came through clearly, though it sounded as if the guitar had a sore throat.”
‘Human Performance’ was another highlight. It’s a melancholy track and not as danceable as some others, but hearing the lyrics sang aloud felt painfully raw in a way that was exhilarating. It was also funny to see the crowd attempting to maintain movement. I was reminded of the dancing teens on the Lollapalooza episode of The Simpsons.
‘Berlin Got Blurry’ – one of the more polished tracks of the New York band’s repertoire – was suitably dishevelled for its live outing. The familiar riff came through clearly, though it sounded as if the guitar had a sore throat. Like ‘Berlin’, the final track of the set came from Human Performance. ‘One Man no City’ provided a fitting end to the night. It’s hardly the most popular of their catalogue, but that would have been too obvious. There was no encore, but it wouldn’t have felt right for them to linger. Parquet Courts had arrived at a neat point of conclusion. This band don’t drag their feet.
Maddy is listening to ‘Whiteout’ by Warpaint.