It’s awards season. The creative industries, most notably music and film, love to end winter with an elaborate and expensive knees-up in the name of celebrating talent. The shows are meant to be a celebration of achievements from the last 12 months. However, more often than not, they are just an excuse for the failings of an industry to be highlighted by the press, and for stars to fight with each other.
This year has been no exception, with the much publicised tiffs between Taylor Swift & Kanye after the Grammys and James Bay picking a fight with Lily Allen before the Brits (I have even less respect for Mr Bay following this). The Brits were also very publically criticised - in the same way as the Oscars - for their lack of diversity. Not being a film aficionado, I don’t feel well placed to comment on the Oscars, but I would like to add my opinion to the Brits. The awards, although always slightly farcical, are meant to be all about the most important British music of the year. 2015 was the year where grime broke into the mainstream. Skepta and Stormzy are now famous the world over, and their London version of hip-hop has taken the globe, most notably North America, by storm. The fact that no act from that scene was nominated for any award at this year’s Brits goes beyond a race debate. It’s just ludicrous. It says it all that Drake, one of the biggest stars in the world, left immediately after performing at the Brits to go play a show with Skepta and Section Boyz.
Award shows are not for everyone. And one band who definitely would never been seen on a red carpet are Parquet Courts. This band provided the highlight of the week by dropping the second song from their forthcoming 5th album, Human Performance, “Berlin Got Blurry”.
It’s an early contender for song of the year and just adds to the excitement of the new record. This is despite Parquet doing everything in their power to remove the hype surrounding them. Since their 2nd album, Light Up Gold, they have gathered a devoted following that adores them. But these four arty-types have never been comfortable with this. Their first album was only available on limited edition cassette as frontman Andrew Savage explains:
"Cassettes force you to be patient and digest what you're listening to. People that are curious and go out and search for music are listening to cassettes because maybe there's only a hundred of them – and that's all the more incentive because they'd like to hear it before it becomes completely unavailable. I like to reward people's curiosity."
It’s almost like they didn’t want to be popular. In fact, that’s almost certainly the case. On the EP which followed Light Up Gold, Tally All The Things That You Broke, Savage screamed “Want something they didn't tell you to want / Say something without the words that they fed you / Find something they didn't tell you to hunt for” on the “More It Works.” They seem to be telling people to not listen to critics and find bands other than themselves
On their next album, Sunbathing Animal, they even lamented about the “shame” of popularity: “‘They cheered my name / No punches thrown / Their joy / My shame.” Their subsequent record, Content Nausea, was even released under Parkay Quartz, as an attempt to go under the radar.
Their most blatant attempt at self-sabotage, however, was an EP Monastic Living, released at the end of November last year. For a band whose style hinges on lyrics, the EP was 95% instrumental grating noise. The only track with words on this eight-track EP was opener, “No No No!”, where Savage sings "I don’t want to be called a poet / Don’t want to hang in a museum / Don’t want to be cited, tacked onto your cause / No, no, no / I’m just a man." It’s comparable only to Lou Reed’s infamous Metal Machine Music. It’s an unlistenable attempt to distance themselves from fans. It almost makes you angry with the four boys from Brooklyn, for being just too damn arty.
The constant of the story of Parquet Courts, however, is the music. It’s always been incredible (barring Monastic Living), and it came as no surprise to me, when they released “Dust” and the announcement for Human Ceremony at the beginning of this month.
It was typical of Parquet to hide the album announcement behind the obscue EP. There’s a reason they are (in my opinion) the most exciting band on the planet. Seeing them play in Vancouver recently did nothing to change that opinion.
They stand in contrast to everything that a music awards ceremony is and the world needs more bands like these guys to stand out from the bland James Bay-esque musicians with which the industry is currently saturated.
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