Wolf Parade Wolf ParadeExpo 86
Dan Boeckner admits that the title of Wolf Parade’s new album has no direct relationship to the actual contents. That doesn’t mean that we can’t play at searching for its meaning. Giving it the name of the International Transport and Communication Exposition held in Vancouver in 1986 occurred to the current band members when they realised that they had all attended that event as children. They thought that maybe, without knowing each other yet, they might have caught sight of each other from afar, or they might even have run into one another without realising it. This nostalgic, melancholy evocation of that Expo 86 that they each experienced separately is curious for what it says about this work, one of the year’s most rock-solid, and one where the group works better as a unit than ever before. Their common memory of a separate visit to that fair sarcastically provides the title for the band’s most cohesive album, in which they are the most united, all of them pointing in the same direction, as if they were holding hands. Twenty-five years after the invisible encounter, “Expo 86” is their own private celebration of their powers. Boeckner and Spencer Krug show themselves to be stylistically excited by their various parallel projects ( Handsome Furs, Sunset Rubdown, Moonface), Dante DeCaro takes more part than ever in the composition process, and Arlen Thompson replaces Hadji Bakara, who has definitively left the group to focus on studying literature. Organised this way, the record has turned out great for them as a band, as we said, perfectly oiled and with ideas bubbling up every minute; this is the album that they are most satisfied with, and which is most faithful to the group’s aesthetic. In summary, without beating around the bush, it’s the best of their career.
Where the seminal “Apologies to the Queen Mary” –their pop album– still sounds fabulous although the production is a bit clumsy, there where the strong foundations to “At Mount Zoomer” –their psychedelic album– will always be saturated at the controls, for this killer “Expo 86” –their rock album– they decided to record live, correcting past errors, exactly the same way that Krug did with the magnificent “Dragonslayer” by Sunset Rubdown: by recording only the voices separately and later passing it all onto a tape. The commander-in-chief has decided to record everything that they do this way from now on, understanding that Wolf Parade was, is, and will be a live performance animal, with music oozing from its wounds; this decision couldn’t be more logical for this group. They have only devoted the necessary time to “Expo 86,” which is hard to believe. As a premise, Krug and Boeckner tried to write songs “that could be danced to” and the result isn’t exactly for jumping around on the club dance floor, but it does give you something to bob your head to and do a few air guitar solos. Using the same uptempo push that gave form to the violent “Dragonslayer”, the vertiginous catharsis that is proposed here (dense lyrics, infinite crossed melodies, structures like rhizomes) takes on a life of its own. Every song encloses inside itself potential possibilities for four more, and all of them seem to be governed by this maximalist lure that one day became the sign and patron saint of the Canadian scene.
The ability to weave it all together according to their trademark characteristics (multi-instrumental power, ability for layering sounds, pretentious structures), makes them a real musical archetype, the hidden motor not only of their country, but also of the United States. But let’s limit the comparison to the aforementioned Canada, a shiny new country in 2010 as it was some years ago. For example: this band symbolises the most wonderful nightmare dreamed by Arcade Fire, a group with a totally different approach, but with very similar results. Where the authors of the long-awaited “The Suburbs” enjoy a certain commercial success, Wolf Parade are indie with sudden changes in direction, but undercover, a runaway, out-of-control art-rock band that recovers the more indie budgets of Built To Spill, Sonic Youth , or their sponsors Modest Mouse to varnish them in a layer of unhinged glam and thumping new wave (the weaknesses of Krug and Boeckner, respectively). The sidereal synthesisers of “Oh You, Old Thing” (pure OMD ) show this, as does the hidden Jamaican weave of “Ghost Pressure”, a song to become hopelessly obsessed with. Like them, “Expo 86” contains eleven impressive bursts of this incomparable energy that is activated every time the band plays together. They are eleven great, crazy songs, bulimic and wild, which seem vast at first, but then uncover their charms little by little. Yes, they still seem like a group with the Diogenes Syndrome, although it’s impossible to find a bit of rubbish in their music. Here they take advantage of everything, like a farmer with a pig. Conclusion: although it is difficult to foresee where following such disparate (and crazy) paths will lead them, for now Wolf Parade has risen as the indestructible refuge of musicians who are in great shape. The real dreamcatcher of North American indie music.
Oh You, Old Thing
Cloud Shadow On The Mountain