Apologies to the Queen Mary
ark to yourself, in tongue-bite, in seizure, and listen to your voice bristle with spasm. Watch the concern and genuine sense of incapacity fill the eyes of your neighbours. What now. All sense flows out of the skin right then, and it’s down to fantasy, terror, cacophony, and awful heartache. Then imagine yourself surrounded by sizzling synths, drunken piano stomps, and lock-step pirate rhythms. Now you got it, and you have company: Wolf Parade has beaten you here, to this place. They’re waiting for you, seated, with bearded grins and shaggy chins. How’s it feel to have stumbled on the best sound of the fall?
This Montreal quartet’s back story is pretty well understood by now. First show with Arcade Fire. Released two fuzzy, self-produced EPs to subtle acclaim. Toured with AF and Modest Mouse. Caught the ear of Isaac Brock early on, who championed them to Sub Pop, and has now produced their debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary. Phew. Glad to have that out of the way.
This overgloried history shouldn’t really matter. But when a band manages to surpass all the bloated noise of indie mags and blogs, all of the muscle of the hype machine, it’s worth noting. With Apologies to the Queen Mary, Wolf Parade have done just that. They’ve cleaned up their grungy guitar lines (thank you Sub Pop), reworked a few of the best songs from their early EPs, and the result is undoubtedly the best contender for the Arcade Fire/Broken Social Scene-helm of 2005.
Mostly, we have a shaggy collection of garbled torchsongs sung in drizzle. Arlen Thompson’s frantic drums are often pushed high in the mix, to snake past hushed acoustic guitar parts and carnival keyboards, all entangled and knotted like ‘locks. Mixing the high-drama art-pop of friends the Arcade Fire with wry acoustic ballads that recall the work of Brock’s own band, Wolf Parade encompass all of the musical oddities Canadian bands seem to have perfected. “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” joins organ stabs with short drum fills against a starlit circus shuffle, all the madmen unsoaped, unshaved, unbathed and free to rape the night. Co-lead Spencer King drains low, and the band seems to look the other way with its distant backdrop, “I was a hero early in the morning/I ain’t no hero in the night.”
“Same Ghost Every Night” is one of the record’s better ballads. Like suffocation via cheesecloth, all huff and effort and the foreknowledge of failure, co-lead Dan Boeckner moans out a wayward love song atop guitar lines that gain speed as the song continues. Familiarity breeds contempt, and love births fatigue, and you hear that tired slump here. Anchor yourself against those ghosts, and wear yourself out fast before the night ends. These are solutions unto themselves, and the cause of all Wolf Parade’s blistered angst.
Mining similar territory, “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” swarms with memories and conflicted pasts, and “Dinner Bells” matches that dead swoon with a tankard full of prickled piano and roughneck guitar lines sawing at King’s soft strangulation. With a beat like a rusty pacemaker, the band flirts with the winter, throating out the fall, a howl and quiet, siren and alarum and crash. You can hear them gain steam and noise as they pass, and you can feel them threaten the future in that approach.
Don’t fight this. All the kids rabid for dancePop or mainstream hip-hop as the new indie may be right. Richard X is undoubtedly working on the next Eurodance queen (post Rachel Stevens) as we speak, but it may take a while. Wolf Parade is warm and sticky, and their campfire sludgesongs don’t make for cheap glee. Still, give into the indie again, and you can still flaunt the latest grime and dancehall joints on Myspace. My lips are sealed.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM'S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: SEPTEMBER 26 - OCTOBER 2, 2005