Andrew Savage cites Black Flag as an influence, but you’re not likely to catch him at any of the reunion gigs by either the “official”, Greg Ginn–led Black Flag or the competing version touring under the name FLAG.
“My opinion—and this is coming from a younger person’s point of view—is that that music had its time,” the Parquet Courts singer-guitarist says when the Straight reaches him in Half Moon Bay, California, where the Brooklyn-based band has pulled off the Pacific Coast Highway for a beach break. “The Black Flag with Greg Ginn in it, that recent lineup, they released a new song and it’s terrible. It sounds like nu-metal. It’s just awful. And it doesn’t do anything for the band or the fans. My opinion, as a young person—so take it with that caveat—is that that stuff had its time and it should stay in that time, and it’s a bummer whenever bands come back and try to re-create magic that has long since been lost.”
Parquet Courts has been active for less than three years, so it’s safe to say the four-piece outfit is still feeling the magic. This is borne out on Light Up Gold, its first proper LP. (The band itself doesn’t count its 2011 debut cassette, American Specialties, as a true album.) Savage and his bandmates—fellow singer-guitarist Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton, and drummer Max Savage—play a strain of indie rock that seems to owe more to Pavement and the Fall than to Black Flag. Songs like “Master of My Craft” and “Borrowed Time” lurch forward with heart-attack urgency and minimal ornamentation. Savage and Brown’s churning guitars and matter-of-fact vocals are as dry as the considerable wit on display in the lyrics.
Clocking in at just over a minute, “Careers in Combat” offers sardonic advice to fresh-faced job seekers: “There are no more roles on TV shows, there are no road-cone dispensing jobs/There are no spots left for park rangers ’cause there are no bears left to save you from/But there are still careers in combat, my son.” When it’s suggested that a running theme in Parquet Courts’ songs is that right now is a shitty time to be young, the 20-something Savage counters that being young and trying to find your place in the world has always had its challenges.
“It’s hard for me to assess if a lot of the things that I deal with, and people of my age deal with, aren’t things that people have just always dealt with, you know?” he says. “I think maybe a lot of people my age would like to think that there’s something special, and there’s this new struggle that we have to deal with, but I really don’t think so. I think it’s something that everyone’s had to deal with. It’s not really anything new or unique.”
One could make the case that the music of Parquet Courts is neither new nor unique, but this isn’t to the band’s detriment. Indeed, Light Up Gold has almost invariably reminded critics of things they know and love, with the album earning Savage and his cohorts flattering comparisons to everything from the Modern Lovers to Sonic Youth to, yes, even Black Flag. The Texas-born musician has no qualms about any of that.
“Sometimes I’ll read something and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting because I’ve never listened to that band,’ ” Savage says. “But that doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. That’s just what they thought of when they heard our music. A lot of people, especially in the U.K., like to compare us to the Strokes, which is not a band that I have ever been a fan of, but it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong in the comparison, because it’s their point of reference for linking our music with another part of musical history. Music is in the ear of the beholder. It’s not up to me to tell someone ‘You don’t get where I’m coming from. This is not my influence. You don’t get it.’ I used to think that, but now I’m like, ‘They’re not wrong. This is their musical pedigree. This is where they’re coming from, so who I am to tell them that they can’t link us with these bands?’”