Wolf Parade, Expo 86 [2010]

Posted by Greg , Wednesday, December 29, 2010 10:46 PM

Better late than never, eh?  In the inevitable winter music dropoff, i.e. the time between mid-December and - oh, I don't know - let's say March (don't get hung up on the timing; I'm just making this up as I type), it seems most musicians avoid putting out new releases.  Maybe they think no one is paying attention during the holidays.  Or maybe it's because everyone needs a break, and what better time to take one than Christmas?  Nevertheless, this gives me some time to catch up on music I missed earlier in the year.

I overlooked Expo 86, Wolf Parade's third LP (and their last one, if the band's "indefinite hiatus" is a permanent one), when it came out on June 29, 2010.  I was underwhelmed by its predecessor, At Mount Zoomer, and although I acknowledge that album is probably a grower that needed more time, it didn't get me excited for the band's next release.  Perhaps because of that (or maybe because I happened to be getting married in June), I barely paid any attention to the album's leadoff single, "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)."

For anyone who hasn't heard of Wolf Parade, the Canadian band is comprised of dual lead singers/songwriters Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner, drummer Arlen Thompson, and guitarist/percussionist Dante DeCaro.  Krug, who plays keyboard, had been involved with several other bands, most notably Sunset Rubdown.  Boeckner, guitarist, also fronts husband/wife duo Handsome Furs.  Thompson has been involved with Arcade Fire, and DeCaro was a guitarist and songwriter for Hot Hot Heat.  So they're sort of an indie rock supergroup.  The band first gained attention with their 2005 debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, with At Mount Zoomer following in 2008.

Expo 86 opens with the crazy rantings of Spencer Krug.  (The guy could be brilliant - at least everyone says he is - but I don't know what the hell he's singing about.)  Something about a hammock, dreamcatchers, scorpions, and jumping over mountains like a gazelle.  Yeah.  The thing is, though, the song rocks.  But even when it seems ready to explode into a storm of ferocious drumming, guitars, "oh oh ohs," and "na na nas," it almost disintegrates into nothing.  For over a full minute in the song's midsection, it's as if Krug and the band forgot what they were doing.  It's all just tension-building, though, for the eventual eruption into the song's titanic, energetic closer.

Likewise, Krug's "What Did My Lover Say" is a monster of a song.  It snakes into your head and feasts on your brain.  Because, you know...snakes are really just zombies with sharper fangs.  Anyway, the band has pulled off somewhat of an amazing feat by crafting a song that is infectious without actually being catchy.

Random Thought, by the way: If Spencer Krug's voice is as distinctive as everyone says, why is it I can't tell him apart from co-lead singer Dan Boeckner?  If anyone actually commented on these posts, I might get slayed for that comment, but at least it's honest.  The dudes sound the same.  You can usually pick out each guy's songs, though, as Boeckner's aren't insane.  Maybe inscrutable, but not batshit crazy.  Naturally, this lets us create a handy cheat sheet for when you find yourself listening to or discussing a Wolf Parade record:
Trust me, the insane/not-insane cheat sheet is usually foolproof.  It has gotten me out of countless conversations where I just wanted to say, "Man, I don't know who the fuck is singing on 'Ghost Pressure.'"

Case in point.  While Krug does his best Bowie impression on "What Did My Lover Say," Boeckner's "Palm Road" reminds me of Springsteen.  Now, if you had to fit Bowie and Springsteen into our cheat sheet, where are they going to go?  Yep.  By the way, "Palm Road" doesn't actually sound anything like Bruce, but his spirit is there.  Or the mythology of his spirit.  Something like that.  I grew up in Jersey; I'm allowed to make random Boss-comparisons.  (Or maybe that means I'm supposed to avoid them?)

That being said, Boeckner contributed some of the truly standout tracks on this record, including the wistful yet upbeat "Yulia," rocking stomper "Pobody's Nerfect," and soaring "Little Golden Age."

Overlooking this album was a mistake.  Expo 86 is a triumphant success, combining elements of each bandmembers' work in their various side projects into a unified whole.  Hopefully the band's hiatus is not a permanent one, as Expo 86 shows they were just starting to find their groove.

What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had to Go This Way):


0 Response to "Wolf Parade, Expo 86 [2010]"

Post a Comment