IMAGE: Meqo Sam Cecil
[SYNTH ROCK] Spencer Krug wastes no time opening Wolf Parade’s third album, Expo 86, with a declaration of intent. The second you press play, Krug’s sinewy voice hits you. Four minutes later, “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” still hasn’t let up, though Krug’s voice is eventually overtaken by piercing guitar, frantic percussion and some of the most layered synthesizers since David Bowie joined Brian Eno for Bowie’s famed Berlin Trilogy. Pretext be damned: Wolf Parade is going to rock...in the band’s own weird way.
It’s no surprise, then, that the recording of Expo 86 happened almost as fast. “We really didn’t want to get bogged down too much with the production side of things,” drummer Arlen Thompson says over the phone from New York, where the band is starting a month-long tour. “The band likes things to be speedy.”
Wolf Parade always moves quickly. Since debuting with the sublime Apologies to the Queen Mary in 2005, the band—co-vocalists Krug and Dan Boeckner, guitarist Dante DeCaro and Thompson—has fast become one of the biggest names in indie rock, with Krug and Boeckner alternating songwriting credits and offshoot projects at a clip that makes one wonder how they sleep. After 2007’s At Mount Zoomer, the band took a year off to regroup, and it paid off: Expo 86 is Wolf Parade at its leanest, largely eschewing the progginess of Mount Zoomer while successfully fusing Krug’s lyrical flights of fancy and Boeckner’s overt Springsteen-isms.
Thompson says Expo 86 was recorded live to tape with minimal overdubs, and, for the first time, it captures both the band’s chemistry and nervous live energy. Sometimes the two voices come together beautifully (the pulsing “Little Golden Age”) and sometimes they stand alone, but the closing combo of Boeckner’s ode to a lost cosmonaut (“Yulia”) and Krug’s Neanderthal love song (“Cave-o-sapien”) prove arguing whose songs are better is silly.
“People do play that angle of Dan vs. Spencer, but nobody in the band sees it that way,” Thompson says. “The stuff they bring in is like a seed, and then once the band starts working on it that seed becomes a song. It just happens that this time we didn’t really have any slow songs.”
SEE IT: Wolf Parade plays Tuesday, July 27, at the Crystal Ballroom. 9 pm. $20. All ages.