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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Violence’ By Parquet Courts

Violence is daily life.

That line is repeatedly chanted throughout “Violence,” a song by Parquet Courts that considers the various ways that violence weaves its way into everyday American life subtly and overtly.

It’s a song that calls out racism, classism, capitalism, normalization. It also connects dots between the endless reports of gun violence in the news and the subtle violence often perpetuated in media, art, and culture.

Additionally, “Violence” directly addresses the impact of protests being called “riots,” as well as the violence of historical erasure and gentrification.

“Riot is an unfinished grave that was dug to deposit undepleted anger / like barrels of uranium leaking into something sacred,” sings guitarist Andrew Savage. “It is a word to use to delegitimize your unrest / and to make your resistance into an overreaction.”

Over ominous melodies, the verses are uttered with a quick, double-time, spoken-word pace.

“Violence” is the second track on “Wide Awake,” the most recent album by the New York band, which is rounded out by guitarist Austin Brown, bassist Sean Yeaton, and drummer Max Savage. It’s their sixth studio album and was produced by New York City musician Danger Mouse.

The song appears right before another of the album’s overtly topical songs, “Before the Water Gets Too High,” which is about the climate.

“There are lots of Parquet Courts songs about American violence, but this is the most explicit,” Andrew Savage told NPR surrounding the release of “Wide Awake.” “This track is our way of reacting to the amount of violence one has to bear witness to as an American. As we are numbed to it, the appropriate level of anger and mourning becomes increasingly difficult.”

In the interview, speaking about the style of the song, Savage said he wanted to “honor black artists in a song about American violence, which is disproportionately directed at black lives.”

“Inherently because of this, it’s also about white privilege, and my complicity in [the] power imbalance,” he continues. “The deep voice after the chorus is an ode to Funkadelic, one of my favorite bands.”

Listen to “Violence” by Parquet Courts:

Reality Winner. Photo via StandWithReality.org
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Liz Pelly

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