Release Date: Oct 6, 2017
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Sometimes, you just need some time away from your work, to truly love it again. At the turn of the decade, Montreal indie-rock darlings Wolf Parade had run out of steam, growing visibly frustrated with themselves and their reception following the underrated At Mount Zoomer and unfortunately maligned Expo 86. Their decision was an understandable one.
It’s been more than seven years since Wolf Parade released Expo 86 and abruptly announced their indefinite hiatus. In that time, a lot has changed for both the members in the band and the music industry in general. New musical babies—and human babies—were born to Spencer Krug, Dan Boeckner, Dante DeCaro and Arlen Thompson, while the musical landscape shifted away from guitar rock and toward sounds created by computers.
It doesn't usually go like this. After a five-year absence from the live stage, and seven since their last record, 2010's Expo 86, Wolf Parade got back together to promote a re-issue of their debut album, Apologies to the Queen Mary. Then last year they dropped an EP, and now, their fourth full-length, Cry Cry Cry. Typically, when bands reform after successful solo or side gigs (in this case the notables being Spencer Krug's Moonface, Dan Boeckner's Divine Fits and Handsome Furs, and Dante DeCaro's work with Frog Eyes) the result upon their reformation is a taking of turns, where each member basically contributes a song that sounds very much like their other band.
After seven years away from the recording studio, Wolf Parade have picked up where they left off, sounding confident and full-bodied on their fourth studio effort, 2017's Cry Cry Cry. As before, Wolf Parade approach indie rock with the sense of drama of a prog rock band, reinforced by the operatic quaver of Spencer Krug's vocal work and the grand ambitions of the keyboards by Krug and Dante DeCaro. Despite their hiatus, Wolf Parade sound fresh and invigorated on these 11 songs, with the healthy snap of Arlen Thompson's drumming keeping the proceedings lively even when the group slinks into a languid mood on "Flies on the Sun" or aims for a moody effect on "Lazarus Online.
P art of a seemingly endless assembly line of artistically minded Canadian bands that emerged in the mid-noughties, Montreal outfit Wolf Parade had a howling take on new wave and powerpop that always seemed a little too wild to match the mainstream appeal of peers such as Arcade Fire or New Pornographers. Just as a blue-collar rock maturity seemed to be creeping into their sound by the release of third album Expo 86, the band promptly decided to split up. Now, though, after seven years away working on various side projects (Divine Fits, Handsome Furs, Moonface), Wolf Parade.
Apprehension about the modern world has underscored Wolf Parade’s songwriting since the Canadian indie rockers’ 2005 debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, but on the band’s fourth album, Cry Cry Cry, that vague sense of ennui has taken on a more specific focus. Following a five-year hiatus, the band started writing new music for the album during the 2016 presidential election, and the ugliness of the American political climate led to songs with a thorny sense of disgust and powerlessness. While 2010’s Expo 86 faltered by not playing to Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug’s individual vocal strengths, Wolf Parade’s latest effort reemphasizes the contrast between Boeckner’s raspy, emphatic vocal and Krug’s forlorn warble.
In 2005, Wolf Parade named their album in playful regret of an incident that occurred aboard an ocean liner. With Cry Cry Cry, they’re apologizing again: this time for growing older. While the sound of their latest record doesn’t betray the seven-year hiatus that has followed 2010’s Expo 86, time has a funny way of making its presence felt. In the case of Wolf Parade, that means a lack of answers for the questions they’ve been asking since they formed in Montreal in 2003. Spencer Krug is now 40, and co-leader Dan Boeckner will hit that milestone in February.
It stands to reason most listeners who encounter Cry Cry Cry had some real moments with 2005’s “I’ll Believe in Anything”—not just a song that defined Wolf Parade, but an entire era when scrappy bands with bristling guitars, raw-throated vocalists, janky synths, and dog-eared thesauruses all believed in something profound and abstract. They sounded like they were punching far above indie rock’s weight because they really could be thrust from obscurity to relative stardom. It doesn’t quite feel that way anymore, and perhaps it’s fitting that “2005 indie” or pre-blog rock—whatever you want to call it—is having its best year since, well, 2005.
Wolf Parade don’t do things by halves. From the filmic piano revolutions of opener ‘Lazarus Online’, to the growl of Spencer Krug’s voice all the way through, on ‘Cry Cry Cry’ the Montreal-formed quartet have made another album of knotty guitar songs which prove the band is still taking themselves very seriously. Their fourth album comes after a six-year hiatus, and it is a resolute comeback. Strikingly reminiscent of The National, this is brazen, boisterous music from a band of men who are more than happy to be plugging in once again.
The early 90s were Bruce Springsteen’s lowest ebb. A duo of lacklustre albums coincided with grunge’s deep suspicion of keyboards and bombast. Stadium rock was to be routinely mocked, not aspired to (unless you happened to play in Pearl Jam). Post-9/11, the US’ spirits needed a boost so The Boss found himself credible again while US indie bands were freed from repressing their own predilection for Springsteenianism.
If you’re just going to put on sheep’s clothing, what’s the point of being a wolf? Among the Canadian bands who took a big bite out of international indie rock in the 2000s, Wolf Parade was the most dressed down and feral, the leanest and hungriest—at least on 2005 debut Apologies to the Queen Mary, before they started succumbing to the call of the prog on their next two albums. A two-headed beast, Wolf Parade was born when Dan Boeckner’s sturdy, greasy glam songwriting reacted to evil seraph Spencer Krug’s free radicals. Together, they flayed strangely decrepit rock songs down to the sinew, and their music cut a stark outline again the atmosphere of garish muchness typified by the likes of Broken Social Scene.