I wanted to trash this album. The first time I listened to it, I texted my girlfriend my feelings about the album. My feelings, at the time, can be summed up with two words: “bad” and “drab.”
It’s fair to say that Human Performance can be “drab.” It has 13 tracks. It’s also very fair to say that there’s some, and I’m quoting my text message here, “preeeeettty bad” tracks. I was salivating at the opportunity to trash the living shit out of this album. It was going to be a gratifying experience. So I kept listening to it. Over and over and over.
And over the course of my repeated listens, I grew to like Human Performance. I had a similar about-face with Animal Collective’s Painting With. I trashed the album on Twitter the first listen, but it was secretly infectious. I played it immediately again afterwards and two days later I found myself listening to Animal Collective’s discography. It’s been a curious and pleasing phenomena.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Human Performance. Even the dreadful “I Was Just Here” has a final 18 second stretch where the dull and meandering guitar riff the song is centered on turns into a frantic punk song that’s glad it’s over. For every boring or bad moment you get two excellent and fun bits like the final bridge on “Paraphrased” or a song like “Steady on My Mind.”
“Steady on My Mind” would fit in quite nicely in The Velvet Underground’s quiet self-titled. It has a low tambourine-led beat and a lonely guitar riffing in the forefront. Andrew Savage, the vocalist of the band, channels his best Lou Reed and deadpans the lyrics. It’s a great song and one of the highlights of Human Performance.
The Velvet Underground connections don’t just stop there. Right after “Steady on My Mind” comes “One Man, No City.” “One Man, No City” has a final 3 minute jam entirely reminiscent of a Velvet Underground & Nico-era VU song. There’s the driving, steady “motorik” drumming. As the rhythm section gets lost in the background, the guitars nicely interpolate with one another. Even one of the guitars sounds awfully a lot like the trademark viola played by John Cale. It’s the final freak-out from “European Son.”
The song variety on Human Performance is one of its strengths. The album can vary from short, less than 2-minute song to a 6-minute long jam song. There’s plenty of genre variety. We get Velvet Underground inspired jam songs or fast, pummeling punk. Vastly different styles with a common root: rock’n’roll.
This is my introduction to Parquet Courts. Human Performance required a bit of effort from me. It has been a rewarding effort with plentiful of fruits. Can it blend in as background noise? Sure, but for every lull there’s a lot of fun to rinse out. It’s a fun record for rock aficionados to check out. I recommend this album.