Review Summary: I got water and I got holes, so
I’ll admit that most of Apologies to the Queen Mary
sounds like a cosmic event to me. A ritual of sabotaging artificial light in “Modern World”; a spaghetti western about guns in “I’ll Believe In Anything,” updated for a generation that has synthesizers and makes glitches; an album that is literally haunted by ghosts, and is accidentally channelling them in every sad corner. To be haunted, Wolf Parade seem to say, is to be a person, and so there’s ground at the feet of each of these spooky songs, something that protects them from the otherworldly and makes all the yelping, the swirling keyboards and the general high-fantasy of the record more about ‘people’ than the metaphors surrounding them. You don’t have to seek divorce out from whales hanging in the underground, or ghosts haunting the very human decisions Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug talk about making. You don’t have to understand deranged expressionistic wordplay to know that “Shine a Light” is about office drudgery and the companionship that gets a dude through it.
As Apologies to the Queen Mary
ends, it seems to resolve around people: “This Heart’s on Fire” is the record’s conventional rock jam, and more importantly, the rock jam about love, and between two hermits refusing to give into the record’s heady exploration. It’s a quiet and dignified love, according to Boeckner- of saying no to going out and instead staring, numbly, into the TV with your lover. Wolf Parade add jet packs to these songs about people, is all: they make this quiet statement and then launch it off of earth in a distinct, mysterious moment. These songs are taken to places that put the subtle, and often impossible, in big bold, and so Apologies to the Queen Mary
stands on a launch pad in the ground and stares around, and then up.
And isn’t that what an indie rock record is all about? We’ve been taught by this loosely defined, escapologist of a genre that the only real rule is that things mean a lot. A lot of the time, we’re taught that everything comes from nothing, and so there’s a taunt on Women’s perhaps-masterpiece, Public Strain
, that goes “can’t you see? / can’t you see?” as the band plays grainy, distorted music over the top of anything they want to say to their audience, which they’re pretending isn’t there. It’s indicative of what the album is- something to not be understood but to tug at you in the process- and so the key lines are there, maybe, but never explained, and never really there for you to come to peace with. Public Strain
infuriates me only because I love it, and there’s something in that: the record you have problems to sort out and come back to, a hundred times over, when it doesn’t treat you right.
Wolf Parade do the same with a bottomless bucket of poems. They make it sound like an album of distortion is an onslaught of words, and so I understand about forty percent of what Boeckner says, and I’ll settle to understand way less of what Krug is spilling onto pages, and yet this album, Apologies to the Queen Mary
, stabs to the heart immediately. “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts,” the song that affects deepest on the record, has one moment of clarity, and it’s the la la las. As always. “Hungry Ghosts” is like a shopping list scrawled out for symbols of fear, which is why so little of it makes sense but still makes you quiver inside. “Hungry Ghosts” rattles off its hopelessness like an endless document; “I got water, and I got holes, so,” it shrugs, as if that’s enough explanation to fend against God and hunters and all the things rattling around the corners of the song’s parameter. Krug’s expression is what is sublime here: that these words could be sung with such conviction, or that line could make such sense when yelped like an apocalyptic deal-breaker.
I love that line, because Krug acts as if I’ve got a fu
cking clue what he’s saying. “So” is such a resignation.
With their lightning-crackling delivery, Krug and Boeckner deliver songs with double lives, and all feel deranged and two-fold. Wolf Parade have prog-rock in their blood, able to tell stories about the weirdest things that don’t exist and equate them to a day that wasn’t any good; “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” might be about having complex father issues, but with the gunshots chasing an execution and the stolen voices, it becomes an overture for exile in a high realm. Or maybe that’s just because I listened to it while playing Majora’s Mask, but it’s so dramatised
; if you don’t want to turn out like the man your father is, Krug says, then invent a world and run as far away as you can from it. That is the kind of quality these two songwriters own at all moments: the ability to build something up to understand it, to put it in bright lights so its importance becomes clear.
I would have to guess that is what “We Built Another World” is about. And I guess, really, I’ve just never heard a record so perfect in tone: the record’s only no-synth track, “Modern World,” is peeled back for symmetry, to present a bare dissertation against technology and unrelenting change, played on piano and guitar and things you can build without electricity. “I’ll Believe Anything” has its bloodshed pulsing through it- something that is portrayed to note in its music video- and gets somehow impossibly louder and more intense until the song is on top of itself without ever really changing. “Dinner Bells” is given the spacey, high-up altitude of a song talking about losing and absence. Sounds like someone’s cut a large hole through the song as it rattles, on its own, through a disorientating instrumental march. Quite literally sounds like there’s little more to say now that there are no more dinner bells (“dinner bells to ring”).
It’s almost as if Wolf Parade were bound to this super-emotional, charged prog-rock universe; Krug, on one podium, making silly keyboard sounds turn songs fantastical and magical, and Boeckner on the other giving songs their gritty indie rock grounding with soul-crushing guitar tones as on the miserable “Dinner Bells.” And both always knowing exactly what thing to talk about, and how: “you’re the one eyed feather,” Krug sings on that track, and it sounds believable, in some place beyond this. It’s unquestionable that this is cosmic music, out of this world or set where the tension’s too unreal for this one, but that’s what gives it the feeling it has to us in the office jobs. It’s indie rock that gives us high flying importance. I think it’s telling that Wolf Parade never gave us another record as perfect as this, and that they couldn’t find a way to stay at peace together. If you don’t much like the universe you made for yourself, what are the chances you’re going to like this one? Apologies to the Queen Mary
is that two-fold record that makes indie rock as important as it is to me, and it’s a little spooky that it occupies this impossible, unsettling place in my heart. So.