15711 Waterloo Road
Cleveland, OH, 44110
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
Wide Awake! is New York’s Parquet Courts’ fifth record since their formation eight years ago. It’s also their most groundbreaking. It’s an album about independence and individuality but also about collectivity and communitarianism. Love is at its center. There’s also a freshness here, a breaking of new territory that’s testament to the group’s restless spirit.
In part, this may be attributed to the fact that it’s produced by Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, but it’s also simply a triumph of their songwriter’s art. The songs, written by Austin Brown and Andrew Savage are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness, but are elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass).
The plan from the start was to introduce new musical ideas previously unexplored by the band. These were varied. For Brown, a few of the touchstones were Grace Jones, The Upsetters, Townes Van Zandt, Parliament and Augustus Pablo. For Savage though, the soundtrack to the sessions in Electric Lady Studios in New York and later at Sonic Ranch in Texas, was different.
“I found myself listening to a lot of ‘80s American punk,” he explains, “I’m talking about Big Boys, Minutemen, The Dicks, Flipper. Bands that were no doubt punk but don’t quite fit in. I’ve always loved the playfulness of Minutemen and Big Boys, and especially the way the latter mixed funk into their sound.”
Two early examples of what these influences meant in practise for the record arrive early. “Violence,” the album’s blistering second song, revisits the proto hip hop of “He’s Seein’ Paths” from 2013’s “Tally All The Things That You Broke” EP. Savage’s furious denunciation of the casual acceptance of violence as part of everyday life is given even greater urgency following the recent shootings in Florida and Sutherland Springs.
“Mardi Gras Beads,” on the other hand, offers a complete different, texturally ambitious standout moment. Brown has never been so vulnerable on a Parquet Courts record, and the band, for all their ferocity, has never played so movingly; it’s a prime example of Brown “writing songs I’ve been wanting to write but never had the courage.”
The band credit their producer Brian Burton with helping them carve out the essence of an idea and bringing his polish to the album.
“The ethos behind every Parquet Courts record is that there needs to be change for the better, and the best way to tackle that is to step out of one’s comfort zone,” Savage says of the unlikely pairing. “I personally liked the fact that I was writing a record that was aggressive and indebted to punk and funk, and he’s a pop producer who’s made some very polished records recently. I liked the idea that it didn’t make sense to work with him, which to me makes total sense as to why we should work with him.”
“I was expecting bringing in a producer would be a redefining element of the band, someone who would pilot us to a new place entirely,” expands Brown, “however where Brian excelled was rather to hold a mirror to the group, and help us bring out our best versions of ourselves.” Indeed it was Danger Mouse, an admirer of the Parquet Courts who originally reached out to work with them.
The record also reflects a burgeoning confidence in the band’s exploration of new ideas in a hi-fi context. For his part, Savage was determined not to make another ballad heavy record like the band’s 2016 Human Performance. “I needed an outlet for the side of me that feels emotions like joy, rage, silliness and anger,” he says. They looked to play on the duality between rage and glee like the bands Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Black Flag. “All those bands make me want to dance and that’s what I want people to do when they hear our record,” adds Savage.
For Brown, death and love were the biggest influences. One of the most courageous songs on the new record is “Death Will Bring Change,” a moving elegy, with a chorus not unlike the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” only this time, London’s Bach Choir were 15 twelve year olds from the upper east side being recorded at 9am on a Saturday. “Nothing scarier,” says Brown.
The songs on Parquet Courts new record also make you think of what Joe Strummer of The Clash once said, about why he wrote songs – i.e. “to expand people’s vocabularies.” So set against the likes of the elegiac “Mardi Gras Beads” is the opening track “Total Football.” Named after the eponymous theory of soccer pioneered by the Dutch that requires every player to be able to play every position on the field, it has shout-outs to iconic individualists like the painter Cy Twombly, the poet Mina and sculptor Eva Hesse.
It’s a song about “opposing the tired alpha-male-lone-wolf archetype that too many people rely on as an avatar,” Savage explains, and lauding “creative and inspiring individuals (the song also touches on KoBrA, The Beatles and The Black Panthers) that approached individuality in a way that wasn’t contrary to collectivism, and vice versa.” Much like the band themselves – four individual artists forging a brave new world of sound.
Ultimately then the message contained in Wide Awake! is complex. “In such a hateful era of culture, we stand in opposition to that — and to the nihilism used to cope with that — with ideas of passion and love,” Brown says. For Savage, it comes back to the deceptively complex goal of making people want to dance, powering the body for resistance through a combination of groove, joy, and indignation, “expressing anger constructively but without trying to accommodate anyone.”
That they’ve managed to weave such disparate themes into such a unified whole says everything about Parquet Courts’ achievement on Wide Awake!. This isn’t just another record by them, it might well be the record.
For now anyway.
Through her folkloric mystique, otherworldly psychedelia, and a dash of enigmatic punk, Ahomale by Combo Chimbita catapults the sacred knowledge of our forebears into the future. Their second studio album and Anti- Records debut sees the visionary quartet drawing from ancestral mythologies and musical enlightenment to unearth the awareness of Ahomale, the album’s cosmic muse. Comprised of Carolina Oliveros’ mesmeric contralto, illuminating storytelling and fierce guacharaca rhythms, Prince of Queens’ hypnotic synth stabs and grooving bass lines, Niño Lento’s imaginative guitar licks, and Dilemastronauta’s powerful drumming, the lure and lore of Combo Chimbita comes into existence.
The legend begins with their first EP, 2016’s El Corredor del Jaguar, and followed up with the occult psychedelia of Abya Yala. In 2019’s Ahomale, the New York-by-way-of-Colombia troupe fuse the perennial rhythms of the Afro-Latinx diaspora with a modern-day consciousness, while tracing the prophetic traditions of our ancestry. “The more we’ve played music together, the more we began to discover things within ourselves that we were previously unaware of, almost like an energy. And that’s being communicated through our music,” explains Prince of Queens in the making of Ahomale.
Inspired by a Yoruba term, Ahomale, meaning adorer of ancestors, Oliveros reveals her quest to connect with ancestral cosmology, which the Combo pays homage to. “Ahomale resurges from the visions that we’ve been having via our music and life, and the lyrics reflect a manifestation passed on through our ancestors and the gods,” she explains. “I wanted the album to convey the search for spiritual awareness, which ultimately serves as a revelation.” In a similar spirit, Niño Lento conveys: “The protagonist of this album whose name is Ahomale possesses the ability to communicate ancestral wisdom through the music.”
With the help of producer Daniel Schlett (The War on Drugs, Modest Mouse), the group’s rootsy experimental alchemy and metal strangeness take centerfold. Oliveros howls, yowls and chirps with gut-wrenching emotion, like on the languid mirage of “El Camino,” or plaintive frenzy of the title track. Whether rock raw and soulful or bewitching like a shaman in a spiritual ceremony, her voice is always a multifaceted wonder. “Brillo Más Que El Oro (La Bala Apuntándome)” boasts alluring vintage synths that seem to time travel through the lush tropics of yore; then, the mood intensifies when its bridge brilliantly crosses into a spellbinding chant sung in unison: “Y si digo que / Que ahora ya lo se” (“And if I say that I now know”). “Testigo” is pure melodic witchcraft in action that strips away wordly façades into something bare and beautiful: “Desde principio a fin, yo siempre di mi verdad” (“from beginning to end, I always gave my truth), the singer vulnerably croons against a whirling guitar and galloping percussions.
Ultimately, Ahomale is a catharsis of divine feminine force helmed by their powerhouse vocalist, laden with the teachings from a bygone era, in tune with the spiritual realm. “Our spirit and energy have passed through multiple generations,” says Prince of Queens. “We might not be open or allowed to explore it because of Western society’s conditions. But the idea is that we are receiving messages from the past, and from our ancestors that each one of us carry.” In nearly 40 minutes of eye-opening thrills and chills, the listener experiences the pedagogy of Ahomale, journeying through her epiphanies and enlightenment. “Ahomale is a warrior, not the sword and shield type, but a woman who is ready to listen to her heart, follow her intuition and connect with her ancestors,” Oliveros avows.—Isabela Raygoza