Drummer Christopher Weingarten once summed up the unique mission that stellar Brooklyn noise-rock outfit Parts & Labor embarked upon for the past decade, saying, "Make the world a noisier place. Remind the noisy places what melody sounds like." The band surely accomplished both counts, though the latter is what made them stand out from their contemporaries. It’s also what made me fall for them in the first place, finding that one can still feel comfortable and homey within the confines of a noise band. After their announcement of an indefinite hiatus last week, it also seems a contrast worth reflecting on.
Weingarten, the drummer turned rock-critic turned drummer turned hipster-puppy connoisseur, has probably the most varied love story with Pats & Labor of all its members. He saw the band play a show in an alley the first week he moved to New York and was immediately enamored with them. For a long time following, he went to the same Brooklyn basement shows as they did and by proxy they became quick friends. Later, when the role of drummer was vacant, Weingarten offered up his services because, well, why wouldn’t you want to drum for your favorite New York City band. As unorthodox as this recruitment method may have been, the physical results of Weingarten becoming one of the Parts worked out pretty famously, albeit briefly.
My brief marriage to the Brooklyn basement scene was much less romantic and serendipitous. I was never much of a noise-rock devotee. For a while, I was inexplicably embarrassed by this fact. I felt like I was unwilling to put in the work to appreciate the subgenre, or that the nuances contained within it were beyond me. What I eventually came to terms with was that I just really value melody in rock more often than not and that I found a lot of noise bands boring. But then I discovered Parts & Labor—instrumental explorers with hooks and lyrics that managed to stick in your head.
When I moved to Brooklyn, I imagined there being a whole scene of bands playing house shows and basements building on this same combination of noise and hooks. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, all I got were headaches on long JMZ train rides home. This isn’t interjected as a woe-was-me-type story, so much as a testament to how rare the fusion Parts & Labor frequently achieved is and how wrong duplications can go.
I never found my own little portal into the original Parts & Labor scene, but the real thing churned out consistently solid records. Receivers was a high water mark and, at times, even subtle. This year’s Constant Future was another solid effort. The band never achieved the quasi-mainstream notoriety they were on the brink of, though. They did, however, string together five albums over the course of a decade that expanded their sound and the boundaries of noise and melody about as far as they could go. Given ongoing lineup changes, the ever-changing and occasionally exhausting neighborhood crowd and the constant challenge to create something new and unique, this is clearly no small feat.