Post-punk is a genre that has been mined extensively in the past decade with countless bands from Editors to Interpol putting on their best Ian Curtis impressions and heading straight for the great pit of stagnation. South Carolina’s Parlour Tricks are here to give the genre a big kick up the arse with an urgent, propulsive and importantly- dancey self titled debut album. Despite playing a genre of music almost always associated with depressives and all-round gloom, the album places the power of the hook in high esteem, leading to some unashamedly big choruses loaded with well dressed dynamics and an all round sense of cautious optimism.
The albums opens with rumbling percussion before each instrument is added to the furore in quick succession, the guitar playing a painfully simple four chord staccato riff whilst vocalist Eric Greenwood initially opts for the traditional post-punk baritone warble before he thankfully allows his voice to open up a little for the chorus. Piano arpeggios swirl elegantly as the song reaches an understated chorus, completing a musical venture that strangely sounds a little like The Gaslight Anthem if they were from Macclesfield. ‘Radio Out’ begins with sparse guitar staccato’s before things get things get dancey and a distinct whiff of Mission of Burma seeps into the song whilst the vocals emit a similar nasal twang as Placebo’s Brian Molko. The clean, syncopated guitar chords of the verse even eschew little hints of ska in a recurring flirtation with upbeat motifs.
Everything about third track ‘Cathedral’ seems wonderfully off-kilter; drums can’t decide whether to visit the indie-disco or opt for some rock histrionics whilst a booty-shakin bass churns out some dirty basslines as nimble guitars dance across the mix. ‘Bronze Cast’ sees the band lose any inhibitions they might have about a fully ‘pop chorus’ but thankfully their Mission Of Burma influences shine through enough to keep the track from going too glossy. The tempo is upped slightly for ‘Red’. Propelled by a driving bassline the song possesses a distinct sense of urgency with vocalist Eric’s voice breaking into screams of “I feel so strange!” for the thrilling crescendo.
The intro to ‘Eleven’ starts out like some abstract electronic piece as xylophone hits twist around electronic chirps and beeps before the song begins in earnest with straight forward drums and guitars that appear more focused on creating ambience as the piano takes central role for the chorus.
‘Entropy’ and ‘White Lies’ move along nicely with the latter song featuring some particularly nifty and impressive nuances on the drum kit thanks to sticksman Logan Goldstein. The central riff of ‘White Lies’ has Fugazi written all over it but the chorus is a bouncing two-chord alt-rock stomper. Closer ‘Down In The Minefield Of A Memory’ starts off with a Peter Hook-inspired bassline that maintains is simplicity throughout the four minute track. The track never lets up its steady, driving momentum whilst utilizing simplicity and restrain from all instruments as the very ‘New Wave’ vocal melody of the chorus masquerades as a slice of traditional post-punk gloominess.
An album that is post-punk in name, but not necessarily in nature- Parlour Tricks is a much needed update that breathes life into the genres fondness for sounding as cold and dead as possible. The guitar riffs are hummable and the vocal melodies, although not initially overtly ‘poppy’, will sneak their way into your psyche. All in all, a brilliant effort, a record that is instantly accessible, bringing together a myriad of post-punk influences into one well honed and danceable melting pot.
Four out of five high fives!