We anticipated Wolf Parade would make a solid record, but no one could have anticipated the kind of quality it would possess: like coffee or good wine, these nine tracks are an acquired taste. And it's not that it is a bad record, but one that needs multiple listens. Perhaps its the plethora of side projects behind the boys (Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, Frog Eyes, and Swan Lake... whew) that makes the album inaccessible at first. With all the songwriting muscle, and the development of Dan Boeckner as an equal to Spencer Krug (at least while they're on this mountain).
"Call it a ritual/call it whatever you will/you know they will swing swing their swords for show"
Their swords are out, but they are not for show; they are working together. Here is a record that Spencer and Dan make surprisingly cohesive. Apologies felt like a cutting room floor tag-team affair, while Zoomer feels more like a well seasoned melting pot. The theme of escape, right from Dan's opening line "In my head is a city at night," gives the whole album an undertone of a rollar coaster, moving and pausing and moving again. The indie-arcade fire derivative sound is still here, but the boys have evolved into a sound that can be distinctly described as Wolf Parade-ish. Or perhaps "Krugian." Spencer is consistent (minus the bowie indulgence, entitled "An Animal In Your Care"), and from him we expect no less. The real surprise is ALL the songwriting is at his level.
Dan wrote some solid stuff too, and really shines when he leads up a song. "Soldier's Grin" is a great opener, with a drive to the keyboards and the Dan-in-charge lyrics. Other highlights include the bursts in "Fine Young Cannibals," and "Language City." And of course, to Krug's credit, the end of "California Dreamer." "I thought I might have heard you on the radio..." That part. Good stuff.
Overall, the record may be better suited for new fans of the band. It's an acquired taste, but it's also better suited for people looking for something new than old fans of the Parade. "Kissing the Beehive," the eleven minute epic at the end of the album, is the best combination/blending of Spencer and Dan we've heard. The Jonathan Carroll reference was also the original title for the album, before the band ran into copyright issues. Mount Zoomer is the name of drummer Arlen Thompson's studio, where the recording took place. But we digress.
Back to the music: perhaps the cohesiveness is why old fans are skeptical. They want the original dichotomy, the clearly drawn lines between the two vocalists. But, as with all artistic progression, fans are like battles: win some, lose some. In the end, the album holds together like a good book, and sounds good too. After enough listens, that is. -joe puglisi