This page features both a caught live review from back in May of 2010 – in which Wolf Parade played a raw show of material from their last two albums, and showcased some of the choice picks of their soon to be released third opus ‘Expo’ – plus a full review of their latest LP, ‘Expo 86’.

 

 

@ The Concorde 2, Brighton May 17th

I’m making no bones about it, but ever since the wolf pack released their startling assiduous lauded debut — ‘Apologies To Queen Mary’ — five years ago, I’ve been a slavish fan to the Canadian cause.
It seems inconceivable, but this was the first time I’d caught them live, though this could be to do with the fact that they haven’t toured all that much on our shores – in fact I’m pretty sure that this is their first time in Brighton.

Before our viscerally inspired quartet took to the stage, we were lavished with two supporting acts, the first a watered down version of Fanfarlo, the second a Finnish trio of cosmic outriders.
I got to be honest, that first group failed to beckon me from my comfortable seat in the bar; their earnest highlife and twee folksy brand of humble indie left me cold.
Perhaps I’m too disingenuous, as the performance was pretty tight, and far dues on some of the more ambitious toy town xylophone led symphonies, which managed to encourage me to lift my weary head from my stupor.
Because I stayed away from the main hall, I never got to see the actual band, though pastel coloured starched shirts with sleeves rolled up, waistcoats and farm hand haircuts would sum them up well.

Following our troubadours were the Scandinavian group Joensuu 1685, which sounds more like a white beer brewed by Trapist monks in some medieval town then a band name.
Our trio bravely launched into a set that consisted of drawn out aspiring instrumentals and promising sweeping vistas of soaring intent — imagine The Secret Machines, Joy Division and The Bloody Valentine on a sightseeing cruise in the Barents Sea.
Bleeding heart vocals over broody majestic synth led walls of sound, boiled over into a ferocious bombardment of kosmiche rousing joy and grand gestures.
Their cover of the Bruce Springsteen song ‘I’m On Fire’ went down especially well, taking it to an entirely distant plain, far from the travails of life on Earth.
A really good choice of support for the wolfs, complimenting them rather well, as the occasional tune echoed the more challenging sublime blissful elements of their own tunes, especially the new material from the forthcoming ‘Expo 86’ album.

As 9:30 pm arrived, our main act took to the stage, though they had to fumble with setting up their props first for a few minutes.
After some minor adjustments and tweaks the spotlight hit Wolf Parade full on, Dan Boeckner looking intensely skinny in a sleeveless shirt and Spencer Krug leaning over his keyboards defensive wall were now basked in the glow.
They launched straight into ‘Soldiers Grin’ -the first track off the last album, ‘At Mount Zoomer’ — with ecstatic aplomb and a sweaty up-tempo feverish bouts of twitchiness, faithfully sticking to the original.
Kruger then bouted out a stirring version of ‘You Are A Runner And I Am My Fathers Son’, giving some full on gospel as Dan had a fit of exuberance right next to him.
Only two songs in and some of the guys were already leaking sweat like it was going out of fashion.
Maybe some of this bountiful energy was angst, as Dan explained to the audience that they’d arrived late after being held up at customs. Remonstrating that some Swedes had passed through at passport control with no problems, whilst they were held back for some time.
As Dan put it — ‘were part of the Commonwealth man, we even got your Queens head on our money! — What gives?’
One of the sets surprises was the ‘AMZ’ track ‘California Dreamer’, on record a slower building behemoth, but here they performed a shortened version, which seemed more aggressive and cut to the chase of the chorus a lot earlier.

This night would be a launch pad for the ‘Expo 86’ album, with at least five new tracks being showcased, including ‘Ghost Pressure’ and ‘What Did My Lover Say’, both impressed, sounding somewhat brighter and more uplifting then the originals.
The more gentler and slightly poppier ‘Yulia’ was saved for the three-song encore, being a perfect outré song.
From the evidence on show, it would seem that the upcoming album is going to be denser and much more contextualised, with hooks and motifs taking a lot longer to reach, hidden beneath the heavy layers.
These live versions sound a whole lot more dazzling and less drawn out, possibly condensed to a degree – the originals are over five minutes long and sound more paced.

The band generously raced through the last two albums, though ‘Apologies To Queen Mary’ came out on top.
‘Hearts On Fire’ began with the much anticipated synth hook intro, which was met with some excited reactions from the audience — one guy rather embarrassingly clambered on stage to fumble an accompanying air guitar solo, I wouldn’t have minded but it wasn’t even in tune!
But it was ‘I’ll Believe In Anything’ that managed the biggest approval of the night, as everyone rushed forward to bask in the outpourings of the seminal anthemic opus.
Arlen Thompson provided the blistering roaring drums to both Krug’s voracious laments and Dan’s Ritalin starved energetic strumming.
Your reviewer would have died a happy man at this point.

Wolf Parade cemented their reputation as one of the best bands of recent years, both on record and live, though they remain to all intents and purposes still pretty much an underground phenomena — the venue tonight being only half full, though the Great Escape had just been on and the Brighton Festival was still in full swing, plus it was a Monday.
Hopefully they won’t leave it to long before they return to these shores.

The guy’s third album, ‘Expo 86’, is due out on June 29th; of course you can expect to find a full review in the future, here at Monolith Cocktail.

DV

 

Wolf Parade – ‘Expo 86’

 

Child’s play….

Sub Pop Records 2010

Vinyl (GF X2, with download code) / CD / Download

 

 

Tracklist –

A.

1. Cloud Shadow On The Mountain    (4:21)

2. Palm Road    (4:41)

3. What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way) (5:42)

 

B.

1. Little Golden Age    (5:00)

2. In The Direction Of The Moon    (5:46)

3. Ghost Pressure    (5:15)

 

C.

1. Pobodys Nerfect    (5:49)

2. Two Men In New Tuxedos    (3:09)

3. Oh You, Old Thing    (5:46)

 

D.

1. Yulia    (3:46)

2. Cave-o-sapien    (6:18)

Personal –

Dan Boeckner – Guitar and vocal.

Dante Decaro – Bass.

Spencer Krug – Keyboards and vocal.

Arlen Thompson – Drums.

 

Howard Bilerman – Producer.

Perhaps Canada’s premier and most exuberant multi-task band have dropped there first ever clanger, with the extended long running coalesce song collection of ‘Expo 86’.

After bringing us the nigh on genius indie quirks of ‘Apologies To Queen Mary’ – one of the undoubtedly most promising debuts of all time – and the equally masterful ‘At Mount Zoomer’, Wolf Parade leave behind those indelible twists, turns and nuances for a bigger alternative cataclysmic over-egging sound.

This their third album, stands on the precipice of falling into the mire, as nearly all those defining characteristics that we absorbed with a sense of reverential praise, have almost disappeared.

Both Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner’s side projects, Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs respectively, have slowly take over, the last two releases from each camp showing off some of their more progressive and indolent building compositions.

‘Expo 86’ laps up the extended unmonitored length themes from their solo work, yet fail to somehow take these drawn out tracks anywhere surprising or invigorating. Those sudden uplifts and wholly original chord changes are now swamped beneath a sea of effects, with the guys thrashing through songs unsupervised and almost unedited.

At times this is in their favour, giving an added barrage of power, but often results in an epic listless series of crescendos, stabs and stretches of instrumental accompaniment that lacks bite.

It sounds like a band exploring to the nth degree an idea, which is admirable but doesn’t always make for a great track to listen to.

The dense, hyper-layered sound carries Krug’s echo affected voice over his synths and seeps across the entire production, letting the abyss of effects take over.

His inevitable quirky penned songs have the edge with opener ‘Cloud Shadow On The Mountain’ referencing a descriptive myriad of poetic observations, detailing a portside landscape in a quivering fraught vocal, drowned in a chasm of squalling guitars.

On the Walkmen-esque ‘Two Men In New Tuxedos’, his impressive traversing melodic shifts and epic vista searching musicianship, fall neatly into place, sounding not too dissimilar to what you might find on the last Sunset Rubdown record.

Boeckner on the other hand jumps in feet first with his Springsteen ‘Thunder Road’ inspired posturing number ‘Palm Road’, redolent of big 80’s rock and Krautrock whirling laser synths.

Those emotive wanes play out over crashing cymbals and anthemic drum rolls, driving along at an ever-erratic pace that moves into the same territory as the latest Arcade Fire tunes.

Throughout the album there is overtures to late 70’s AM radio rock, and even a warm gesture extended to collage rock groups of their own youth.

Television, The Psychedelic Furs, Tom Petty and even the moody keyboard cascades of Tubeway Army, all make evocative appearances on this record, and are channelled into a more progressive direction, one that makes a tentative step towards the dancefloor. The guys have been quoted as wishing to make an album they could let loose to and dance along to, though what kind of moves you’d pull off to this album are still vague – probably failing arms and embarrassing eyes-closed lost in the moment type strained poses.

I’ve said a whole lot of rather critical remarks – well it is my job after all – which I standby, but this is still a really impressive album regardless of the negatives.

Songs like ‘What Did My Lover Say?’ and ‘Yulia’ both hit the spot, the first all brooding wailing choruses, flourishes and organ stabs, matched by kooky synths and double time hi-hat work. The second is an attempt at a romantic lament that gathers pace and betrays signs of intricate textural layers and deft guitars full of infectious hooks – contender for the leading single from the LP.

Even Wolf Parade at their worst remains better then most of the shit that’s currently out there, in fact if this was some new bunch of deck-shoe wearing three-quarter length slim jim wearing youngsters making this kind of sound, we’d be blown away.

If you’ve followed these guys from the very beginning, you’ll know exactly why I’ve voiced concern.

A certain enigma has been removed, and they just seem that little more eroded of their special uniqueness.

From only seeing them perform a vehement live set back in June, where they showcased a few tracks off this latest album rather energetically, I can’t help feeling just a tad deflated on hearing the recorded versions.

Who knows, this record may just need a lot of time to be digested, it may take months to unravel. Hell I may just have jumped the gun, being proved wrong when I find myself adding it to the best of the year list in January. You can never rule out Wolf Parade after all.

DV

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