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Posted on June 28th, 2010 (1:14 pm) by Crawford Philleo

For those of you who have been feverishly waiting, chomping at the bit for a healthy bite of new Wolf Parade material... why? Since 2005, when the Isaac Brock-produced behemoth Apologies to the Queen Mary dropped a massive indie-rock bomb on the scene, the increasingly reliable band leader Spencer Krug has quickly emerged as one of today’s more important musical personalities, and he’s been anything but scarce in the way of contributing to the musical landscape. He’s made waves with the excellent Sunset Rubdown project, a band now three albums deep in nearly as many years, and he’s also proven himself a worthy contender in the world of weirdo experimentalism and freak-folk with the supergroup Swan Lake (probably my favorite project he’s involved in actually... I just loves me some Dan Bejar). And let’s not forget his solo project, Moonface, which released its first effort on Jagjaguwar earlier this year. The point is, Krug’s been anything but quiet.

And then again, I can relate. After all, Wolf Parade represents Krug’s most rockin’ of rock bands, and it’s easy to see why the quartet’s output might rank among his most celebrated work. And rock Expo 86 certainly does. He and his partner Dan Boeckner are back to their Wolfy ways for the new album, and Expo should satisfy fans to the extent that they were perhaps expecting. The bummer is that Expo fails to ever exceed those expectations. The album’s general mood aside (this is a decidedly darker affair than the group’s last effort, 2008’s At Mount Zoomer), Wolf Parade is still an indie band bringing the synth back into the forefront of the mix, the keys and their various textures driving the compositions in both melody and harmony. Guitars and drums are stacked up appropriately to fill out the band’s sound, matching the song’s more anthemic moments with a beefy mix that bolsters big sounds from all directions.

As lofty as their ambitions are on Expo 86, the band succeeds by never over doing it. And maybe that’s because, compared to some of the more goose-bump raising moments on their debut, their ambitions aren’t so lofty after all. Still, the new album is emotional without letting those emotions overpower the songwriting itself, which is consistently satisfying throughout, and only gets better the further you dig into the record. “Pobody’s Nerfect” is a highlight with an airtight guitar riff that stretches itself over the bar line and makes use of some sparser arrangements, dropping instruments here and there to give the song shape next to the frequently planar texture that fills out much of the album. Wolf Parade finishes strong with “Cave-O Sapien,” ramping up the energy into a driving drum beat and smart, tri-harmonized melodic movement.

But Wolf Parade really aren’t taking any daring chances here, opting instead for locked in, airtight song structures, solid performance (some really kick ass drumming, by the way), and a series of tracks that are all good enough. Maybe I’m just spoiled, and I’d be kidding myself if this was some new band’s debut and I wasn’t salivating buckets. But for a third album, Wolf Parade should be experimenting, pushing the envelope the way Krug has proven he’s more than capable of in his other projects. Don’t forget, Wolf Parade, that wonderful time when you, along with others like the Arcade Fire, reminded us that it was OK, awesome even, to let your emotions get the better of you. Instead of letting go, Expo 86 feels somehow sheltered, holding in.

So nothing here is likely to send shivers down your spine like the lurching trudge of gigantic drums on “You Are A Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” surely did five years ago. But sheesh, “Little Golden Age” is a killer track in its own right, a stone-single if I’ve ever heard one. However, it’s getting less and less likely that Wolf Parade will produce anything quite as jaw-dropping as their debut. I want to be able to remember Expo 86, but as 2010 stands so far, the album falls just short enough that many of its efforts may tragically be forgotten mere months from now.

Track List:
1. Cloud Shadow on the Mountain
2. Palm Road
3. What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)
4. Little Golden Age
5. In the Direction of the Moon
6. Ghost Pressure
7. Pobody’s Nerfect
8. Two Men in New Tuxedos
9. Oh You, Old Thing
10. Yulia
11. Cave-O Sapien

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

72 / 100
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