By Michael Petitti
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 6, 2005
Oh no, he didn't. Oh, you damn right I did. Yes, modern lingo aside, I think the world of Wolf Parade's debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary, and with a little reassuring, hopefully you will too.
Many critics have been falling over themselves to try and encapsulate this album's greatness. There appears to be a checklist that a reviewer must follow when talking about it: 1) Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse frontman), responsible for getting Wolf Parade signed to Subpop, produced much of this album. Check. 2) These fellows come from a currently hot Montreal music scene (Broken Social Scene, Stars). Check. 3) The members of Wolf Parade are good friends - and occasionally musical partners - with Canada's arguably hottest indie act (duh: Arcade Fire). Checkmate.
The brilliance of Apologies to the Queen Mary can be pinpointed to the band's immeasurable talents. Unlike the heavily populated Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade has merely four members. Yet, like those bands, it somehow manages to sound like a choir without the additional bodies. What is remarkable about this is that, like those bands, Wolf Parade manages to make some of the most viscerally emotional and thrilling music around despite its meager numbers.
Apologies to the Queen Mary
Wolf Parade's dual MVPs are frontmen Dan Boeckner (vocals/guitar) and Spencer Krug (vocals/keyboard/piano). While Boeckner's strained pipes conjure up Beck and Bowie, Krug stands out with his skittish vocals reminiscent of Brock and David Byrne. Throughout the album, both manage to make their lyrics poignant through their earnest vocal deliveries.
On the album, Boeckner and Krug trade off vocal duties nearly track for track, but it's never a circus trick. Just as both manage - throughout the album - to make their songs poignant through their earnest vocal deliveries, they also manage to add layers to each other's tracks through equally enthusiastic background vocals.
Musically, Apologies to the Queen Mary is an album that rides its nonstop peaks without ever so much as a hint of faltering. Whether pounding or restraining their instruments, Wolf Parade knows how to pack a punch. Most songs eventually build into anthemlike masterpieces as the band allows sounds to pile on top of each other, retreat and return for a final collision of noise and melody. The result is always stunning.
Highlights are consistent, but some beg a mention. "Grounds for Divorce" is a chirpy Krug tune that grows and swells into an explosive finale with the phrase "looked like a newlywed" sounding catchier than ever. Meanwhile, Boeckner's "Shine a Light" begins with stuttering vocals, shimmering synths and their version of the opening guitar line from "Get Back" (yeah, The Beatles tune). The song unquestionably becomes Wolf Parade's as the band funnels the various sounds into a tightly, soulful chorus with Boeckner barking: "You know our hearts beat time out very slowly."
Although each track on this album could invariably become your favorite track of the year, Krug's "I'll Believe in Anything" will likely be the first. Starting with Krug's beeping synth note and Thompson's hollow drum smacks, the song eventually gains momentum into a furiously paced, yet strangely tender, love song (sans the sap). Things only get better as the band picks up speed for the song's furiously breakneck apex. It's a rare rock song that can be so uplifting and enjoyable.
The best part? Apologies to the Queen Mary is undeniably indie rock. There are no tricks up the band's sleeves, no hidden agendas and no pandering to current trends. It's just indie rock like you've heard before and will hear again. Only, of course, better. On their debut, Wolf Parade has managed to make a played-out genre sound dangerous and stirring again. And that deserves no apologies.