One of our favorite albums here at RIJR from 2013 was Light Up Gold from Parquet Courts; in fact, it finished in a tie at the number 9 slot (we’ll set aside the fact that it had a limited release in 2012, because nobody you know bought the original limited-distribution release). The album blows by at a blistering pace with 15 songs in 33 minutes, all delivered in a quick, witty punk style that first captures your attention with witty hooks, but then keeps you smiling as you listen to the hilarious lyrics. I think the best description I came up with is if the guys from Pavement decided that they wanted to do an album of Minutemen songs; now that I think about it, that sounds like a great idea in and of itself–Stephen Malkmus, you should probably get on that.
The one exception to the hit-’em-and-then-quit-it rapid-fire approach to songwriting on the album was the song “Stoned and Starving”; on the album where two songs edge over three minutes and many are only a minute-or-so in length, “Stoned and Starving” seems positively epic by clocking in at over five minutes (with the live version posted above being around seven minutes). And what subject is worthy of such intense scrutiny? Parquet Courts analyzed such subjects as mental health in two minutes (“No Ideas”) or the shitty economy in one (“Careers in Combat”), so whatever the topic is it has to be pretty complex and subject to nuanced interpretation, right? Well, the title of the track says it all–it’s about a guy who is stoned and is starving.
It is the extremely trivial nature of the narrator’s task at hand juxtaposed with the epic scope of the track that makes the song so brilliant. The consistent, driving bassline gives the song a constant forward-motion, evoking our hero’s dogged quest to rectify his problem. The looping, repeating guitar riffs mirror the circles in which our protagonist is travelling, as he continually finds himself in Ridgewood, Queens and flipping through magazines. There are many philosophical questions that are confronted–are these ingredients actually safe to eat, would Swedish Fish, roasted peanuts, or licorice accomplish the task with the greatest efficiency, and would the money be better spent on cigarettes even though smoking kills? At some point, our narrator clearly wanders off, as evidenced by the meandering guitar solo that tapers off over the last two minutes of the song, fading out into feedback; but the bassline and the rhythm guitar part continue, indicating that the quest likely went unfulfilled. What hath become of our hero? Who knows, but maybe we as an audience can learn from the failures of this particular journey, and meanwhile listen to some kickass punk rock.