Review Summary: Wolf Parade bring punk to the indie scene. Results? Indie as never been so visceral.
Wolf Parade had been around for 2 year before the release of Apologies To The Queen Mary, their debut LP. In that time they'd released some grungey-indie EP's that, whilst promising, were simply too coarse. Thankfully their ambition and scope was noticed by Sub Pop, a label renowned for discovering indie talent and they were snapped up and thrown in a studio.
What came out was 12 songs, 48 minutes, 2880 seconds of pure adrenaline pumping noise. Not 'eye of the tiger' adrenaline but energy adrenaline. The album has 3 tent pole tracks that get the blood racing at a rate of knots; Grounds for Divorce, Fancy Claps and I'll Believe In Anything. But the whole album has an air of grunge-filled energy, be it You Are A Runner's driving drum/piano mashup or We Built Another World's wall of sound.
The songwriting and vocals are split between the guitarist Dan Boeckner and keyboardist Spencer Krug each having a different, yet complimenting, style to one another. Krug is responsible for the energy injection of the tent-pole tracks whilst Boeckner specialises in the slow-burners such as It's A Curse and This Heart's On Fire. Despite these two different styles the album never fails to maintain its momentum towards the crescendo which is undoubtedly I'll Believe In Anything, managing to find more energy just when you think the band has taken its fill.
And if one song encompasses the albums passion and anger, it is I'll Believe In Anything with Krug shouting his voice hoarse nobody knows you, and nobody gives a damn either way. The drum beat starts off with a simple thud but with the crash of symbols and high-hats used heavily throughout the song is a rallying call for rage but the song never loses focus, it is a primarily a song about love and the hatred that can spawn from that. The lyrics, though sometimes lost in the noise are not just there for enjoyment: the song Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts is supposed refers to Pretas of Buddhist Mythology. The "Hungry Ghosts" – beings who, because of actions in their past lives, are always hungry and thirsty, but cannot eat or drink – are used by Krug as a reference to his generation.
One problem that some might have with the album is that neither singer is particularly gifted in the vocal range. They manage, throughout but it is clear they were never cut out to be sopranos with words occasionally becoming indistinguishable and the on few occasions hitting falsetto, albeit accidentally. The voices work for me though; they're personal and pained, filled with emotion. Think of Win Butler in Arcade Fire, he's not a great singer but when he struggles and strains for notes it adds a different level to the songs, this is especially clear on the melancholic Dinner Bells which is the most personal song on the album, written about the death of Dan Boeckner's mother.
One of the elements I most enjoy about Wolf Parade is the use of the keyboard. Often in Apologies To The Queen Mary it isn't used in conjunction with the guitar but rather with the drum beat (as in You Are A Runner) or on its own, hammering out sounds and noises (This Heart's On Fire). Most bands use piano as an excuse to have another instrument or band member and rarely add anything to an album except maybe the staple 'slow' song, no such waste from Wolf Parade who use it as another outlet for their pantheon of energy.
In a generation where punk has become as diluted as hair metal (see Towers of London) and grunge has died a death, an indie band from Canada have managed to bottle the energy of The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, uncorked it, controlled it and released it with the result an indie album that's not for indie-kids. It's for everyone.