Guttural in one track, smothered in a synth’s playful harmony in another, the guitar parts that adorn the material we hear on the new Parker Longbough LP Green and Gold/Drink the Hemlock are at times reminiscent of early White Stripes records, 80s Seattle sludge and even the noise-laden riffs of Sonic Youth all at once, and yet they rarely translate as being overly experimental in songs like “Avalanche Beacon,” “Bad Attitude” and “We Go Golfing.” They define the narrative in Green and Gold/Drink the Hemlock far more than any other component does, but at the same time, they’re hardly the only sonic element in this album worth writing home about.
Parker Longbough’s vocal is never the centerpiece in this record; ironically, it’s only in the most vibrant of the string-driven tunes (“Sleep Comfortably,” “The Statement is the Answer” and “Rising Black”) that we experience its harmonic depth to any serious extent. Harmonies, riffs and rhythm are the primary way he chooses to communicate with listeners in Green and Gold/Drink the Hemlock, and although it’s an untraditional look by most mainstream standards, it’s a blueprint that his longtime fans have come to know, love and expect. Only time will tell for sure, but I really can see scores of new listeners may feeling swept with this new content for this precise reason.
“Two Months Out,” “Breakdown the Acronyms,” “Avalanche Beacon” and “Governor’s (Butter) Cup” express so much to us through their textures that their lyrics often feel enormously enigmatic, but this doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the multifaceted construction of the songs at all. On the contrary, it’s as though the instrumentation is telling us one story alongside another being passionately sung by Parker Longbough, and despite the intricacies of the compositions, none of these tracks sound or feel overambitious at all. The music is gripping and even a little theatrical (especially towards the conclusion of “Burbank Safari”), but never woefully avant-garde in style.
Though some of these songs might be a little too much for the mainstream to handle, they’re by and large some of the more muscular numbers that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this December. “The Statement is the Answer” sports a slimy lead guitar pumped up by an old fashioned punk beat, and while it’s a heavy-handed hybrid, it’s far more melodic than many of the similarly stylized singles I’ve heard in the last couple of months have been. Harmonies are laced with destructive distortion and apocalyptic noise in Green and Gold/Drink the Hemlock, but for some discriminating audiophiles, the resulting cocktail will prove too intoxicating a treat to resist.
There’s really no need for debate – Green and Gold/Drink the Hemlock is Parker Longbough’s best and most well-rounded album to see widespread release thus far, and even if it serves as the antithesis of pop’s bittersweet lyrical ironies and soft-swinging electronic beats, it dishes out a shot of adrenaline in a season that was really hurting for some fresh energy. If you’ve never heard his work prior to now, I’d recommend picking up this latest LP sooner than later, as it’s definitely a great way of getting to know Longbough’s one of a kind style of postmodern indie rock.