Douglas Martin‘s noise is noisier than yours.
Parquet Courts were never a band to rest on their laurels. They identify as punks and appropriately behave that way. If you are like me and subscribe to the philosophical definition of punk as freedom. Each new release cycles down different artistic paths, to the point where I forget I’ve ruminated on their distaste for retread every time I’ve written about them.
To wit, Monastic Living finds the New York band once again subverting expectations levied on them by their fans. Only this EP isn’t like Tally All the Things That You Broke, which was a short release that marked incremental progression. This is a full on departure. There are a few things that sound like they wouldn’t be disqualified from inclusion on earlier Parquet Courts releases: “Alms for the Poor” is exactly the sort of instrumental wedged between the observant humor and poetic lethargy on Sunbathing Animal or Light Up Gold, while “No, No, No!” and “Elegy of Colonial Suffering”—if the latter had words, at least—would be shoe-ins for the band’s debut tape.
Both parts of the EP’s title-track, the former replete with squalid guitars and the latter sounding like a Casio experiment filtered through GarageBand distortion settings, are instrumentals but barely have the structure and lack the ebb, flow, or exploration of instrumental music. They’re songs with no words. The aforementioned “No, No, No!” has lyrics, but not in the way Parquet Courts songs are usually adorned with lyrics; the words here are buried in the mix, indistinguishable from the music, and suffer the ignoble fate of being vocals for vocals’ sake. A wide gulf from the majestic use of language Parquet Courts are generally known for.
It remains to be seen why a band so renowned for their words would put out a squirrely, unfocused instrumental EP. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve been encouraged to use the release’s liner notes to decipher meaning. Whether it contains lyrics or not, music by and large exists to convey meaning that doesn’t need to be figured out. Monastic Living is a statement of purpose from a band that probably don’t want to be pigeonholed. Resistance to being placed in a labeled box is one thing, but it’s difficult to be excited about something that sounds like noise just for the hell of it. There’s already too much noise out there.