Wolf Parade - Expo 86
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: June 29, 2010
First of all, I have two confessions to make. The first is that this is going to be one of those reviews with a personal aspect driving it, one of those where I talk about what this band means to me and how there music has affected me. So if you don't like those reviews skip ahead a few paragraphs.
Which leads to my second confession: I don't have past experiences with Wolf Parade. I've never even listened to an album all the way through. Wolf Parade is one of those bands that I have been meaning to check out for the longest time. Every time I heard a song it has greatly intrigued me. They were even backed by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, and yet I somehow have managed to avoid their burgeoning career. Ditto that for Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner's side projects Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs. As such, this review is written with my fellow Wolf Parade newbies in mind.
Because of this, I can't really talk about the critically acclaimed Apologies to the Queen Mary or the disappointing (or so I have heard) At Mount Zoomer. Also, the clash in styles between Krug and Boeckner is rather new to me. Whereas other reviewers seem to know everything about the past of Wolf Parade, I know very little.
But I do know one important thing, the only thing that really matters, and of this I am very confident: Expo 86 is an excellent record.
The song writing on this record is exceptional. Everything works. The signature vocals, crazy lyrics, driving guitars, powerful and occasionally fuzzed out bass, catchy keys, and excellent drumming seamlessly combine to make every track worthwhile. The album is also incredibly cohesive, as the focus and direction remain consistent throughout. There are no sore thumbs sticking out to trip up the pace. From the moment the pulsing drums and odd lyrics of the delightfully quirky "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain" kick off the album, to the final rollicking notes of "Cave-O-Sapien," the album is a ride that is both incredibly fun and incredibly good.
If there is any complaint with the album, it can only be that it is a little too safe. A well performed oddity of a track, one different enough to add another dimension to the album without destroying the previously-mentioned cohesiveness, would push Expo 86 to the next level. The album is not completely devoid of zaniness though, one good example being "In the Direction of the Moon" with its hazy bass and blooping keys, another being "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain." But even the songs that have the most eccentricities and experimentation feel a little too safe.
As it is, this is still a great album that is worthy of your time (and money, let's keep it legal folks). Expo 86 marks Wolf Parade finding their groove creatively, balancing the zany ideas with the more grounded ones, weaving them together, and crafting songs that are well constructed while also being fun.
For Wolf Parade fans, this album is obviously a must-have. It may not have the same weight as Apologies, but that's okay. With incredible cuts like the space ballad "Yulia" and the jaunty finale "Cave-O-Sapien," this album is hardly a disappointment. For the unitiated, give this album a spin. You'll be missing out on one of the better albums of the year if you don't.