The pairing of a Brooklyn post-hype band like Parquet Courts with a fellow like Danger Mouse feels so old-fashioned that I was surprised labels were still pushing that. Remember when that was a thing? Flood and PJ Harvey! Rick Rubin and Slayer! Brian Eno and whoever! Like a supergroup put together by nerds, these pairings were meant to, practically, to broaden the sound of an act that was in fear of wearing out its welcome and, creatively, push solidified acts into new places. Nowadays, since albums that sell are just playlists, the ones that are supposed to be hits can be made by far more cooks. And if you’re just selling what amounts to a tour announcement, no one cares who produces you.
If deference to such trends, the stoned-and starving lads at Parquet Courts had announced that their second record on Rough Trade would be the latest production project of Danger Mouse, the well-haired producer who helmed some of the more curious rawk guitar-accomplishments of the previous decade: a very well-remembered Gorillaz record, a very underrated Beck record, and turned the Black Keys into a Grammy machine. Also “Crazy,” which still bops. The latest single from this project is the title track, “Wide Awake,” which comes with a Mardi Gras-themed music video directed by Brother Willis.
A cursory scan of YouTube comments tells us they’re “new wave” now. This falls in line with Danger Mouse as a kind of Brian Eno-ish presence in the studio, getting rock bands to sound self-consciously weirder. An earlier single— “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”—is mostly notable for the crescendo ‘ahh!’s in the middle, they recall the Beatles version of “Twist and Shout” but more likely “Let’s Dance,” the David Bowie hit that also does that. Like David Bowie in 1983, both Burton and Parquet Courts have been ambling around, unsure what the zeitgeist is anymore.
And ditto the scenes they defined. Burton was an original mashup icon, whose version of the Beatles The White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album hit the internet big time and while it didn’t make any money, it inspired lots of other people to make money. Wanting to make money also, he produced a lot of rock acts to sound savvier at a time when the pop savviness was leaning into but had not fully crossed into hip hop. Now it’s all hip hop and Burton got stuck trying to make bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and U2 work again. They didn’t. Parquet Courts’ rise also gestated online. As Brooklyn transplants, they were among the last of the blog rock bands to acquire raves for how much they sounded like the punkish cranking that proliferated on obscure music download blogs or, less charitably, a more Can-ish version of Pavement. But those blogs don’t exist anymore. The Chris Ott-types of the world might as well be dead. You want traffic, you can’t pretend Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift don’t exist. Aquarium Drunkard have a nice radio show and all but that whole operation is probably just like two people at this point. The internet, once a particular place with a number of particular sounds and human beings, is now just everybody, who sucks. 99% of audio streaming is of the top 10% most-streamed tracks and so on.
Which is a way of saying that the internet betrayed both Parquet Courts and Danger Mouse who have come together to sound ruthlessly like the past. “I’m wide awake,” Savage tells us, his angry voice wolfing through drums that feel left over from a forgotten Tom Tom Club session, “Movin’ and groovin’ and I ain’t ever losin’ the pace. ”
Wide Awake! is out May 18 on Rough Trade.