I’ve never been quite so stumped by an EP as I was by Parquet Courts’ Monastic Living. I thought I didn’t like it, yet I’ve found myself slightly infatuated with it; it sort of just sounds like chaos, yet it also sounds so perfectly calculated. I can only assume that this is exactly what Parquet Courts set out to do: in which case, they’ve most definitely succeeded.
Opener ‘No, No, No!’ is the most vocal of the album and arguably (and rather disappointingly) the strongest. It’s almost as though you’re lured into a false sense of security by the vocals and relatively collected nature of the track before weird hypnotic chaos ensues. The rest of the album – by risk of sounding really weird – mirrors the album artwork (particularly tracks like ‘Monastic Living I’). Again I can only assume this was some clever plan on Parquet Courts’ part, purely because it’s so bizarrely accurate. It’s fuzzy, disjointed, but undoubtedly well thought out. I can only congratulate the band for their ability to bewilder.
It’s a set of both fitting and greatly juxtaposing track titles: ‘Elegy Of Colonial Suffering’ is what I would describe as the total opposite of an elegy, whilst ‘Frog Pond Plop’ sounds strangely like its name. It’s difficult to know at this point whether I’d usually associate a song with the title ‘Frog Pond Plop’, or whether my brain has begun to meld into the chaotic world of Parquet Courts, but it just seems right.
Continuing with ‘Vow Silence’ sounding almost like a heart monitor, there’s an underlying sense of discomfort in the album. It’s erratic – song lengths vary from 40 seconds to 8 minutes – but (as the name may suggest) there’s a sort of religious regime to it all.
As the shortest track on the album ‘Alms For The Poor’ also acts as the most controlled; it’s the most “normal” per say, swapping unusual sounds for more basic guitar. It’s here where the confusion kicks in. I like arguably “boring” guitar music, right? Yet in those 46 seconds I can’t help but miss the madness of the rest of the album.
There’s no denying Parquet Courts had a plan, and whilst I can’t help but feel like I’ve been brainwashed a little, I suppose it’s a sign of a pretty good album.
Monastic Living is released on 13th November via Rough Trade Records.