Wolf Parade gets so close on Expo 86

The main distinguishing factor between Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, one of Spencer Krug’s many other projects, is the song construction and destination. Generally, while Sunset Rubdown prefers long-winded, ever-changing sounds and structures within the same song, Wolf Parade is its more straightforward brother. They both had some of the same qualities — the crazy-man vocals, the abundance of synthesizers, and so on and so forth — but Wolf Parade was always quicker and easier to immediately digest.

That’s not to say the band has remained static. Over the course of three full-length albums, now, the band has refined its identity. Its first, Apologies to the Queen Mary, was barnstorming indie-rock. At Mt. Zoomer dialed down the intensity and focused more on songwriting intricacies. Now, with Expo 86, the band finds itself unable to commit to anything.

Not to say the music is bad. Expo 86 is the most dance-ready Wolf Parade record, at any rate, with its familiar drumbeats and even more familiar synthesizers. But not only do the song lengths consistently hang out between five and six minutes, the tracks haphazardly jump between different musical ideas. It’s like Sunset Rubdown without the strong sense of identity, and because of that, the middle of the record bleeds together and drags along.

Luckily, Expo 86 is bookended by two fantastic tracks: the urgent opener, “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain,” and the terrific finale “Cave-o-Sapien.” There are other wonderful songs dotting the record’s landscape (“What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)” and “Oh You, Old Thing” come to mind), but they succeed because they create little universes within themselves. When the song ends, you know it, and you can trace the angular journey to the beginning of the song. With much of Expo 86, you can’t. The ideas are always there, but the fully-formed songs aren’t.

Wolf Parade – “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” [MP3]

Wolf Parade – “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)” [MP3]

Purchase Expo 86 here.

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