The lovely lo-fi psychedelia of Mazes’ Ores and Minerals LP has been one of the year’s more absorbing releases, but the band were a shadow of their recorded selves at Village Underground tonight, the loops that should have augmented the guitar, bass and drums trio felt somehow shorn of all melodic depth. This meant the focus fell too unforgivingly on the jagged string-picking and off-kilter vocals of Jack Cooper, who was reticent in the spotlight. Showpiece tunes, such as ‘Bodies’, ‘Hayfever Wristband’ and the ‘Mrs Robinson’-esque cover ‘Donovan’ were still pretty fabulous, strong enough to withstand a below-par performance, but, stripped of its studio subtleties, much of Mazes’ idiosyncratic poppy Krautrock veered disappointingly close to the landfill. A blip, perhaps.
No such crisis of confidence for Parquet Courts, so full of Big Apple swagger that they barely seemed to notice a couple of false starts and even got away with some interminable drone rock in ‘She’s Rolling’ (an antidote to the hardcore snippets that peppered the rest of the set) before kickstarting the pogoing and stage-diving proper with Light Up Gold’s zippy back-to-back openers, ‘Master of My Craft’ and ‘Borrowed Time’. Looking like four insouciant college kids, the Courts’ excitingly forceful hipster punk occupies an unlikely space where The Strokes might rub up against Discharge. Their slacker singalongs slammed into the sell-out crowd via a surge of distorted adrenaline and unrelenting high-speed 4/4, delivered in a whirl of hair, sweat, power chords and feedback. Guitarists Andrew Savage and Austin Brown took turns to bellow out lyrics in a Brooklyn drawl, the latter joking how he’s made more trips to London this year than to his mother’s - the band have more than quadrupled the size of venues they’ve played while doing so. The intimate ferocity in which they specialise is best suited to compact and sweaty, though, and it’s hard to imagine them pulling off such a relentless onslaught in establishments much bigger than Village Underground. Relish the moment, of course, but the Courts may have reached a career crossroads where the snotty attitude and humour of thrilling garage nuggets like ‘Master of My Craft’ and ‘Stoned and Starving’ point the way over much of the set’s powerful but perfunctory punk rock. After all, Parquet Courts may come on like indifferent wasters, but their wise-guy lyrics betray a band whose ambitions surely lie beyond just sharing the bill with Anti-Pasti at the 2016 Punx Picnic.
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