Plumbiferous Media

Expo 86 – Wolf Parade

Jul 1st 2010
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Expo 86 - Wolf ParadeWolf Parade
Expo 86
Score: 59

Montreal indie band Wolf Parade, founded in 2003 by frontman Spencer Krug after his time with Frog Eyes, released their third album, Expo 86, on Tuesday. Expo 86 takes Wolf Parade’s eclectic sound and forms it into cohesive and, at least to some degree, interesting sound. Though Expo 86 suffers from some rather significant issues, in its strengths it still displays Wolf Parade’s creativity.

Expo 86‘s opening track is, though difficult to define, some sort of odd mixture of garage rock, punk, and metal, plus keyboards. As interesting as that combination may sound, it clearly wasn’t meant for mortal ears, as that track was easily the worst on the album. Thankfully, not only was every other track on the album better than it, every track was much, much better. Still, the album is far from excellent. Every single track seems to be perfectly calculated to sound amateurish. Take a typical track, for example, “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way).” The drums are always slightly too loud with their significantly too simple lines, a perfect replica of, perhaps, a mediocre band that played at your high school talent show; the instrumentals, though they never stick with one line for long, are rarely actually playing anything remotely interesting; and every melody and backing line on the album is so closely connected that the band members are all but playing in unison.

Furthermore, it is almost impossible to tell what the overall purpose of the album is. There doesn’t seem to be that much of a connection between the tracks, other than that they’re by the same band, and it’s hard to tell if the band really knew what they were trying to do with Expo 86 other than record some songs. As a whole, Expo 86 is a very whimsical album (and not in a good way), which further contributes to the amateurish nature of the album.

Spencer Krug provides vocals to the album in a variety of styles, varying from opener “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain”‘s near-yelp to the slightly plaintive tone of “Oh You, Old Thing.” Krug’s styles generally match the musical theme of the given track well. However well they match, however, Krug’s voice often sounds fairly overstretched. Additionally, the vocal melodies are so nearly non-melodies that Krug’s voice is easily buried under a few layers of instruments. This is, however, probably for the best, as the instrumental elements of Expo 86 are significantly stronger than the vocals.

Expo 86‘s lyrics aren’t always the easiest to make sense out of, but then, who’d expect that from a band called Wolf Parade, especially given the album’s track titles? Instead, Krug sings lines like “I was asleep in a hammock / I was dreaming that I was a web / I was a dreamcatcher hanging in the window of a minivan parked along the water’s edge.” This is, of course, odd enough that it’s at least a little bit interesting. Unfortunately, though there are plenty of amply strange moments, there are an almost equal number of over-repetitive moments, which detract from the rather unique creativity Wolf Parade cultivates in its best moments.

The final tracks of Expo 86 are a huge improvement on the rest of the album. “Two Men in New Tuxedoes,” the eighth of eleven tracks, is by far the most unexpected and interesting track on the album. It may not actually be all that good a track on its own, but among the rest of the tracks it certainly stands out. Wolf Parade also managed to break through the current norm of lacklustre final tracks with “Cave-o-sapien,” which has a surprisingly excellent introductory instrumental section. Clearly, there is a significant amount of pleasant material on Expo 86. In fact, the album’s biggest flaw is that it manages to make you want to dislike it, even though the album is not actually all that bad.

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