When it works well, the music business can be Darwinian: The best music will find its audience, somehow. Parquet Courts' Light Up Gold is a case in point.
Released last summer on the band's own label, the album followed the Brooklyn band's noisy, lo-fi debut, which was first released only on cassette and generated little notice. But Light Up Gold, recorded in three days in the band's rehearsal space, is a bold, bracing blast of punk rock, full of sharp, rousing riffs behind wordy, witty rants, and it found enough acclaim for a larger indie label, What's My Rupture?, to rerelease it in January. The quartet headlines a show at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA) Friday night.
The success surprised Austin Brown, who fronts the band with fellow songwriter/guitarist Andrew Savage.
"When we recorded the record, we'd all been in bands for forever, and this was just another band," says Brown. "Even Andrew was in Fergus & Geronimo at the same time as Parquet Courts. It was just another idea for a band, and we were just in the process of playing shows, writing songs, and recording.
"When we recorded Light Up Gold, it was just another one of those things. We made it, and we were all pumped how it turned out. Why did it connect with so many people? I don't know. Maybe it was the right-place-right-time thing, but definitely, it's a happy coincidence for us."
The album opens with one of the best one-two punches in recent memory: Brown's sardonic "Master of My Craft," followed with barely a pause by Savage's wry "Borrowed Time." The seamless, breathless transition between the songs mirrors Parquet Courts' live performance, says Brown.
Both Brown and Savage declaim their lyrics, and the streams of words recall vocalists like the Fall's Mark E. Smith, Pavement's Stephen Malkmus, or LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy. They create narrators who draw the listener into their pointed diatribes about disaffected youth, hapless career choices, and feeling "Stoned & Starving."
"Lyrics are really important to us," says Brown. "To me, it's really difficult to imagine being in a band and having stock lyrics, or lyrics that just go along with the music. If you're going to be in a band, you should say something. If people are going to sing along to lyrics at your show, you don't want them to sing something stupid."
The band is working on its next album, giving themselves 10 days to work on 20 or so new songs, some of which they debuted in a session they recently recorded here for XPN's World Cafe. Brown knows that this time people will be paying attention from the start, but that the music industry can be fickle.
"By the time this record comes out, who even knows if people will care about us? Likely not. And if they do, they'll likely start caring a lot less afterward. That seems to be the way of the music industry these days," says Brown.
"As long as we're happy with it and our friends dig it, then that'll be all that I'm worried about."