Parenthetical Girls hand you ‘Privilege’ on a silver platter


Privilege (Abridged)

Parenthetical Girls

Release Date: Feb 19, 13

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Most bands jump straight to the point – they write and jam and record record record until they either have whatever constitutes “enough” for a full-length album, or until they reach that sweet spot of bragging rights because they had to pick-and-choose from all of the supposed awesome songs they wrote, the remainder making up some musical cache for endless albums. But Portland’s Parenthetical Girls are not like most bands. This we have known for some time, thanks to founder/vocalist Zac Pennington (as we previously experienced here). After releasing a series of five vinyls, each released as tracks were finished and funding became available for that album (Privilege) to be released in whole, the entire set is now available as The Privilege Box Set. To condense all 21 total tracks, the band has selected various songs from the five EPs to make one 12-track master album of remastered – and remixed – songs to exemplify what Privilege has to offer.

We open with what feels like a Parenthetical Girls classic already, the lyrically lilting and wilting “Evelyn McHale” – a polished precursor to the themes of privilege with death and scandal and sex interwoven between the spacey synth appearances and constantly optimistic guitar. Set around this pep is Pennington’s voice in hollow and ruminating tones with what sound like a grave chorus backing him up from time to time. Leading us into “The Common Touch” next is the line that might make most listeners change tracks or never sing this one out loud (don’t be so embarrassed). But the simple up and down of the mood, the drama that prevails before the end of the track’s forgiving harmony, are setting the stage for the first act. You can’t leave just yet.

“Careful Who You Dance With” is unapologetic and what you’d expect – a synth-board reverie of warnings and dance floor-worthy woes – before we quickly head in the opposite direction on the following track “For All The Final Girls.” Pennington’s voice leads us like an innocent solo hymn amongst a constant plucking of what may be some stringed instrument.

Of course, this compilation wouldn’t be complete without “Young Throats,” a sharp and, dare I say, edgy kind of jab of sexual perversion. Everything in the track feels like a nighttime occurrence, like unstoppable teen angst or lovers running away through headlights, a Twin Peaks kind of moment.

To finish out the selection, “Curtains” acts like an 80s ballad (somewhat consistent throughout the tracks) of sparse drum slaps and breathy words asking not to speak of love, a chorus of Shana Moulton-worthy attitude repeating “Let it go” as if talking to the 80s itself. It’s a self-conscious song, but then again, all of Pennington’s work breathes with a conviction and a consciousness that allows for it to speak on its own terms. Seeing the band perform live, which includes now Jherek Bischoff, Amber W. Smith, Paul Alcott, and others, brings to life Pennington’s penchant for being a persona as narrator or character in each song – which you can see for yourself as they head out on tour March 7th.