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If you’re looking for the second rotting Canadian collective’s painstakingly awful new album this year after the Disappointing new Broken Social Scene, look elsewhere. Possibly my favourite Canadian Band have managed to keep their crown and reign over the rest. When an album with such high expectations is released, anything can happen, unless you are someone with so much respect from critics, like James Murphy, or Joanna Newsom. Or Spencer Krug. Expo 86 demands repeat listens, if you reject this album upon hearing it once, your opinion is invalid. It is by all means a ‘grower’ album. But Spencer Krug is for an acquired taste, and I can tell you right now, not everyone is going to like it, no matter how much you try.
Despite long waits between albums, everyone knows the Parade are always busy providing fans with extortionate amounts of music in epic proportions. This, Their longest album, is very scattered in sound. If you’re listening on headphones, so many things a happening at each corner. This isn’t always a good thing, and in parts, there’s just way too much happening. Subtlety isn’t Wolf Parade’s greatest forte. This is because of the amount of brain power and cooperation that goes into every song. It’s unreal.
It’s rare that Spencer Krug goes more than just a few months without releasing more creative songs with his signature trademark(s) all over them, whether it be 20 minute opus’ about dream sequences (Marimba and Shit-Drums) or a rendition of one of his older songs (Paper Lace). Although not full on concepts, Krug likes to take on recurring themes throughout albums. For me, Spencer Krug’s whimsical music has become more of a religion than anything else. The opening song gets straight to the point, there’s no building or slowly easing you in to it like I Am A Runner And You Are My Father’s Son. Its harsh delivery and Krug’s deliberate high and low pitch yelping makes it comparable to Frog Eyes. It also has classic Krug lyrics.
The album is similar to Dragonslayer in terms of it’s production. There are very little overdubs and the band plays together, like they would live. This type of production may ward off some listeners. But it makes the album seem very well dressed. But where there are over dubs, it’s way too obvious and sounds, well, silly. Although a great track, towards the end of Ghost Pressure, Dan Boekner sings, “Little vision come shake me up, shake me up”. When he sings this, there’s an overdub of him singing it in a different style at the same time, in a loop. The average lyric doesn’t help either.
It’s not until the juicy centre until it really gets you pumping. This starts with the arguably best track, In The Direction of the Moon. It ends with Two Men In New Tuxedos. During these select songs, Expo 86 varnishes the surfaces of grounds Wolf Parade has previously covered and brings it back to life. The amazing production of Isaac Brock on ‘Apologies’ is repeated throughout them. One thing I think is lacking in this album though, is the piano solos featured on At Mount Zoomer. They’ve been replaced with synths. There are almost too many synths on this album, at times it can get a little grating.
As always, Arlen Thompson’s drums on the Wolf Parade albums are pretty beast like. They guide the spirit of the song along at whatever atmospherically positioned point the song is in. There’s always the heart pounding drums alongside it. The drums make the already well crafted songs broodingly bodied. A trick that will pull any Wolf Parade fan’s heartstrings.
Two minutes into little golden age an epic guitar riff takes over your whole body in an uncontrollable way. If you’re on the bus you can’t help but bob your head. If you’re elsewhere, bobbing your head is the least you’ll be doing. The album is full of moments like these, dotted around in small corners. They’re short bursts of energy. You can throw away your morning Red Bull or Relentless and replace it with any song off Expo.
People are saying that the batch of songs on this album sound just like the front men’s side projects (Handsome Furs/Sunset Rubdown). Whereas Handsome Furs is more electronic and Sunset Rubdown has more of a rock vibe, Wolf Parade has always sat nicely in the middle. People are forgetting that this was the band that formed first and that if it sounds similar to sunset rubdown/handsome furs it’s because they are the same members, they have their own style of musicianship. Nothing can be done about that.
After At Mount Zoomer, I had a theory that Wolf Parade would return with their sound. They’ve made two pretty different albums, next they’ll return with something that combines the best of both worlds. This is exactly what Expo 86 does, but it isn’t necessarily better. No, it isn’t as good as At Mount Zoomer or ‘Apologies’, but it does have some of Boekner’s best writing. And in that respect, some of his best crafted music to date. Cave-o-Sapien isn’t the best closing track, but does have the potential to be something epic, but the band didn’t take advantage of the songs obvious aspects. Overall, a worthy sequel. It’s lacklustre Lucozade. The world the band has created is evolving.