Album review: Wolf Parade, "Expo 86"

July 1, 2010

Wolf Parade, "Expo 86" (Sub Pop) Rating: 3.5/4

Fans of Wolf Parade long have championed this indie-rock quartet from Montreal for pursuing a modern brand of melodically infectious but rhythmically challenging art-rock akin to the New Wave-era best from Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, and the Talking Heads (something similar, it could be noted, to what's being done by their champion and mentor Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse). I really didn't hear it amid all that lo-fi clatter on "Apologies to the Queen Mary" (2005) or "At Mount Zoomer" (2008), but Dan Boeckner, who shares songwriting and frontman duties with Spencer Krug, has been talking a lot in interviews about the group's attempts to be more focused this time around, and the effort certainly has paid off.

Though the mood is often dark and sometimes threatening, and the washes of heavily altered guitars and buzzing analog synthesizers has never been more dense or ominous, the hooks on songs such as "Oh You, Old Thing" and "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)" prevail with an effervescent giddiness, despite the twists and turns of the arrangements, the minimalist lyrics (hard to sing along with a tune in which none of the words make much sense), and the off-kilter rhythms. The apocalypse rarely has sounded like quite so much fun, even though it remains unclear what any of this has to do with the Vancouver World's Fair that gave this disc its name.