CD Review: "At Mount Zoomer" by Wolf Parade
Artist: Wolf Parade
Album: At Mount Zoomer
Label: Sub Pop
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Montreal’s Wolf Parade gave us a thrilling and unique perspective on their debut Apologies to Queen Mary. It was hard not see Lennon/McCartney parallels with the two lead singer/songwriters, as they were both exceptional and competitive. Each one bringing their own strengths to the table; Dan Boeckner brought accomplished guitar rock… a knack for melody and a vulnerable drawl, while Spencer Krug was more experimental in song structure and musicality. Banging like a mad man on his keyboard. They were like a tag team wrestling duo that backed each other on almost every song, pushing each other further than possible as a singular unit.
Even though they traded off songwriting and lead-singing duties there was an impression that if Spencer Krug was singing lead, Dan Boeckner was right there to offer harmonies. The harmonies are nearly absent on At Mount Zoomer, and, at first I was put off by this. It wasn’t until listening to the album for hours straight that I began to hear the collaboration. It’s not a vocal one, which I believe many fans had hoped for, but the collaboration yielded on Apologies to the Queen Mary takes on a different form here, one that is not immediately evident, but is more organic and ultimately creates a more satisfying album.
All of the members of Wolf Parade have some great side projects that are worthy of their talents, but lack a little something. On Krug’s side projects (Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes) he is like the hunchback of Notre Dame (seeing him on-stage evokes images of this as well), brooding and romantic yet somewhat esoteric. Boeckner’s side project (Handsome Furs) is accessible and solid, but slightly homogeneous. On At Mount Zoomer the guys’ shortcomings are swept away, and the synergy of the band as a whole sounds incredible. Krug is LIGHT here! Both lyrically and on the keyboard. It’s a crazy, yet welcome change. Boeckner, is pure seething exhaustion, suddenly an iconic frontman. Krug and Boeckner will receive a lot of the credit but everyone shines here, including Arlen Thompson who produced the lion’s share of the record.
The album begins bitter sweetly with “Soldiers Grin.” A cute synth and guitar line that builds into a tight rhythm. The band pull it off so seamlessly, and it’s unlike any sound they’ve done to this point, but so successful. (If Apologies to Queen Mary experimented with a loose wall of sound, At Mount Zoomer cleans everything up into a nice efficient package where every piece and movement is given room to breathe). The song later meanders into some lonely chords before Boeckner pops the balloon “with what you know, can I only lead one thing. Running from the place that you sprang from.” And then we get a hard jam. Oh shit, trouble. The patience and timing here is unlike anything on the frantic Apologies to Queen Mary, and examples of this growth are all over the album.
If Wolf Parade has a “voice” and perspective it’s that of disenchanted urban life. The guys see the city as a Gotham-like cesspool of excess materialism filled with nervous people, who can’t sleep. Like modern day Thoreau’s, they long for a simpler life closer to nature. Krug flees from the city to the dessert on “Call it a Ritual.” While Boeckner is hopeless on “Language City.” “We’re tired we can’t sleep, language city don’t mean a thing to me…all this work here just to tear it down…we are not at home.”
Only on the albums closer “Kissing the Beehive” (the only song the two co-wrote) do we get a vocal collaboration, and once a hopeful Krug that earlier sang about making “angels in the snow” is back to his brooding “I wish I could believe in you…I wish I could believe in who you are.”
The guys are shining on At Mount Zoomer, and have produced an album that is intertwined and follows a path from beginning to end. They promised Sub Pop “No Singles” and delivered a masterful album.
- Review submitted by Jeff Bracco.