WOLF PARADE – Expo ’86

Sub Pop

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To say that the last five years has been a busy time for Wolf Parade’s frontmen Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug is something of an understatement. In that time they have released together as Wolf Parade and separately through their side projects with Handsome Furs (Boeckner) and Sunset Rubdown (Krug) a staggering ten albums. One might think this could have adverse effect on the quality of the material produced, but the opposite is true. The third release from Wolf Parade, Expo 86, is a tight, brooding beast of an album; it hits the ground running and doesn’t slow down over the ensuing fifty five minutes. 

With Krug contributing six tracks and Boeckner five, the pair have a definite symbiosis, both lyrically and instrumentally. The reverbing guitars and fuzz-laden synths allow each another space when necessary while also smashing together on occasion to create a tension that is darker and edgier than their previous albums, Apologies To Queen Mary (2005) and At Mount Zoomer (2008). 

The album kicks off with somewhat bizarre lyrics from Krug on ‘Cloud Shadow On The Mountain’, “I was asleep in a hammock, I was dreaming that I was a web. I was a dreamcatcher hanging in the window of a mini-van..”, his quivering vocals then lamenting “I’d say that I was all alone…” the track is high tempo with tight riffs and like many tracks to follow, completely danceable. This was something they set out to achieve, in fact the main criteria Spencer Krug had for the songs was “whether or not he would dance to them”. ‘In The Direction Of The Moon’ is a standout song, starting with deep warbling synths that ebb and flow all the way through the following five minutes, it’s a likely candidate for a remix or to be used as a sample, something that hasn’t previously sprung to mind from a Wolf Parade track. At times it sounds somewhat dishevelled, but it works, and flows seamlessly into the brilliant ‘Ghost Pressure’. Immediately accessible, this track was one of the first released prior to the album, and again Krug’s keys dominate. It crashes into the next track, ‘Pobody’s Nerfect’, another of Boeckner’s, giving the guitar-work centre stage, as it rises and crashes, having a big arena feel to it one minute before zooming in to a more intimate space.

The album takes things down a notch with ‘Yulia’, a bitter-sweet tale of longing and distance, “So when they turn the cameras on you, Baby please don’t speak of me, Point up to the dark above you, As they edit me from history”. The closer for Expo 86, picks up the tempo again with ‘Cave-o-Sapian’, spacey keyboards penetrating more strange lyrics..”I had a vision of a gorilla, he was a killer! A killer!”. It’s a catchy, unabashed sing along track, a great way to finish the album, summing up the tone of this cohesive piece of work.

Expo 86 received its title after the four members worked out they had all attended the World’s Fair in Vancouver as kids during the same week. The album leaves you with a feeling of a having had a good fun time, as you get from just experienced a damn good festival (or World’s Fair).

This record is testimony to the talents of the members of Wolf Parade, and the fact that though the dichotomy of the frontmen’s position across the indie scene has them channelling energy into other projects, they can still come together to produce an album that works, and leaves you with a sense of fulfilment and a time well spent.

Dave Roberts – July 31, 2010