Release Date: Jun 29, 2010
Record label: Sub Pop
The most common charge levied against Wolf Parade’s solid second album, At Mount Zoomer, was that the band was stretching itself thin, and maybe, just maybe, co-frontmen Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner were saving their best material for their other projects (Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs, respectively). But that charge came off as an easy way to explain the different and languid tunes on At Mount Zoomer, because both guys were working on solo material long before joining Wolf Parade, and they were able to bring their A-game to Apologies to the Queen Mary, their nearly perfect debut album. And now Expo 86, Wolf Parade’s third album, further renders that notion moot: This is the best album either singer has unleashed since Apologies, and it is bound to make the recent releases from Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs distant memories.
Marching on Wolf Parade’s third studio LP attempts to straddle the ghostly and mesmerizing pop of their stellar debut Apologies to the Queen Mary and the sprawling, fuzzed-out prog of followup At Mount Zoomer. The Montreal quartet is mostly successful in this balancing act, delivering a handful of thematically-obtuse pop missiles heavy on reverb and guitar, with trademark synths still lurking low in the mix. There’s plenty of Queen Mary-esque verve and vigor; “Palm Road” is a delightfully skuzzy guitar-rocker buoyed by straight-outta-DEVO Casio lines, and “Pobody’s Nerfect” is Wolf Parade in fighting trim—a cacophony of gritty guitar, Moog, rumbling drums and crashing cymbals.
Named for a World’s Fair that exposed the public at large to the monorail, a floating McDonald’s, and Einstürzende Neubauten, Expo 86 finds Wolf Parade harnessing a darker, nervy energy on their third album. While they dabbled with space on 2008’s At Mount Zoomer, Expo 86 feels like a more open album. With reverb-soaked guitars and atmospheric synths, Wolf Parade’s music heads into a gloomier place, evoking the more gothic side of post-punk while Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug’s jittery vocals create the necessary sense of tension and drama.
A new Wolf Parade album is always an event. This is due in no small part to the members’ endless side projects; as of press time, Spencer Krug has officially been in every single indie band in Canada. I always half-expect each new record to be the one where they decide, “Fuck it, let’s just do our own thing from now on.” But mostly it’s because the individual members explore so much unique terrain on their own that I’m always anxious to hear what they bring back to the collective.
Wolf Parade's lupine charm emerged from the cross-pollinating world of indie Montreal in 2005 with the excellent debut Apologies to the Queen Mary. Five years and many not-completely-inaccurate comparisons to Modest Mouse later, they return with their third record. Replete with the off-kilter yelping of singers the prolific Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner and tense guitars of their previous work, Expo 86 has an endearing darkness about it.
Are Wolf Parade a supergroup? Google seems to think so: It returns some 70,000 results on the matter, including several from this very website. Certainly their lineup is stacked enough for the distinction. Between Spencer Krug, Dan Boeckner, and Dante DeCaro, I count half-a-dozen notable bands past or present, and drummer Arlen Thompson has put in work with Arcade Fire.
Three albums in and the Montreal indie rockers have found their sound, sort of... As expansive Montreal indie rockers go, Wolf Parade are very much in the shadow of their Arcade Fire chums, but still enjoy a respectable level of, well, respect that should be compounded by this tidy third album. Their sound, now more than ever, is a paradox: despite the Cure-ish grey waves of guitar and Spencer Krug’s morose vocal tics, Wolf Parade can’t conceal the fact that being in a band is clearly terrific fun for them.
A discipline between Wolf Parade members is their shifting nature to switch from project to project, bringing considerable bravado to their separate outfits. When it’s time for the so-called Canadian “supergroup” to shift gears into compromising territory, the results have always turned out to be surprisingly cohesive. There’s hardly a noticeable imbalance of creativity between Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug’s vocal and artful interjections.
This just in: Spencer Krug, he of Sunset Rubdown, is collaborating with the Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner. Did someone say CANADIAN INDIE SUPERGROUP? Hell yes: somebody who used to be in Hot Hot Heat is on guitar... HOT DAMN. ‘Wolf Parade’, as they’re calling themselves, should be an experiment to remember.
Wolf Parade’s charm has always been found in the push and pull between Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. As the Montreal quartet’s songwriting and vocal leaders, Krug and Boeckner diverge wildly in style, but are equally adept at crafting frantic, jam-laden indie gems. At times, the schizophrenia leads to pure, sublime rock: “I’ll Believe in Anything,” from 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, is perhaps some of the most unnerving, painful, and ultimately inspiring four-and-a-half minutes of rock music of the past decade, complete with the bittersweet, hailing cry of “Nobody knows you/And nobody gives a damn.
Sonically, there isn’t much left of the Wolf Parade that gave us 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary. That was an album of lean, brooding pop songs that managed to have an infectious energy even as they championed the band’s melodic and lyrical eccentricities. Produced by Isaac Brock, the album was often compared to his records with Modest Mouse, but in retrospect there was something much more subtle, much more in control about Wolf Parade then.
Damn, what the hell has happened to 2010? Where has it come and gone and where is it going to go next and honestly, could it really get any better? I mean, if we could potentially even detach ourselves from the moment – don’t see why anyone would want to anyway – don’t you believe that in some kind of objective fashion, we could say that 2010 is probably the best year for music in the past five years? Just when you’d thought we’d get to a comfortable mid-way point, we get introduced with Wolf Parade’s latest masterpiece. And my oh my, we’ve come a long way since their last album, too. Since then Dan Boeckner and wife, Alexei Perry, created a solid follow-up in 2009’s Face Control and Spencer Krug and his crew went on to make the best album of 2009 with Sunset Rubdown’s Dragonslayer.
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Wolf Parade’s twisted, crazy, surreal world becomes yours, and it feels absolutely right. Mischa Pearlman 2010 There is, and always has been, a shambolic, jittery edge to Wolf Parade’s music. It’s partly due to the tremulous vocals of its co-frontmen – Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner – and their deliberately messy, unrestrained songs. But it’s also more than that.
Canadian band Wolf Parade has a knack for reminding the old souls of what they miss about vintage music. Just as David Bowie and Peter Gabriel are wont to do, Wolf Parade puts the classic next to the strange. The result this time around is Expo 86, an audio smorgasbord of shredding guitars and electronic, sometimes spacey, tinkering. “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” blasts open the album with a raucous rhythm and Talking Heads-like sing-speak.