Monastic Living is a half an hour you’ll never get back.
Parquet Courts have caught their own scent. For all the things they’ve done right (and there are many) in their short but prolific career, it seems they’ve taken a big ol’ collective armpit-wiff and decided it was about time to do something stupid. Well, they’ve succeeded mightily in that mission with their new EP Monastic Living—a pretentious, overlong exercise in malignant narcissism.
At this point you may be saying, “That’s ridiculous, how can an EP be overlong?”
Listen to Monastic Living. You’ll see.
Actually—don’t. More on that later.
It’s a sad truth that Parquet Courts (and their alter-ego group Parkay Quartz (no, seriously) have dazzled fans and critics alike with their fresh take on lo-fi indie rock and their impressive album output. It’s a sad truth because potential’s a bitch when you decide to believe your own hype. This nine-track EP is experimental only in its dabbling with the idea of turning the perceived tedium and frustration of actual monastic living into sound. Maybe. Or maybe the producer hit record and left the room and the band called the product Monastic Living because…well, for no reason at all. At least that jives with the utter purposelessness of this annoying and useless waste of time.
Monastic Living plays itself out like a band rehearsal session in which the members have some ideas, but can’t manage conjure up a direction for any of them. They either play the half-baked riffs for five to eight minutes, or just stop after about a minute and move on to something else. And, on the longer cuts, certain instruments—a guitar here, a bass there—just stop. Then pop back into the mix. Then stop again. And along the way there’s some intentional (or not?) flubbing, and other assorted silliness that makes the whole thing worse.
Literally, that is Monastic Living. There’s no real reason to break down the record track by track because one of them, “Elegy of Colonial Suffering,” is one minute and 40 seconds of muted guitar string pick-scraping. Care to venture a guess as to what sort of artistic value that “song” holds? Here’s another one: the second track, “Monastic Living I” is an annoying four-note progression. Played for six and a half damn minutes. It’s all a fuzz and tomfoolery that can be skipped after the first measure. Know why? Because that’s all it is. One measure played about a million times—that’s how it feels anyhow. Truthfully, there is nothing of any value after the opening track, “No, No, No!” for the remainder of the record. And even that’s a stretch because it is an unfinished idea in and of itself.
It could very well be that this is the path indie rock is taking, and those who don’t “get it” can get left behind because who needs them. But if that’s the case, where do bands like Parquet Courts go from here? Will they hit record, shove theirs hands into their armpits and flail away to capture the faux-flatulence for their snare drum sounds? Will they hold a lengthy conversation on politics and call it post-neo-indie-convo-rock? Who’s to say? The fact is, Parquet Courts made this record with a straight-face. It wouldn’t be nearly as ridiculous if they hadn’t. Truthfully, there is nothing more guffaw-inducing than a band who makes something like Monastic Living with the utmost belief that it is the next leap in their evolution. The only hope here is that they will ask themselves the question their producers, record label and die-hard fans haven’t: “What in the sweet holy hell were we thinking?”
Remember the “overlong” statement made earlier? Think of it like this: Your train home is a half an hour late and you’ve been standing on the platform doing nothing but getting angrier and angrier with every passing second. Or, you’ve got a hot date in 30 minutes and some bozo rear-ends you, then calls the cops and blames you for the whole thing. Point is, Monastic Living is a half an hour you’ll never get back. And for God’s sake there’s anything else in the world you could do with that time. At least with the abovementioned examples, the train will eventually show and the cop will ultimately send you on your way. This record has no such payoff. So here’s a parting word of advice: Don’t subject yourself to Monastic Living. Just don’t.