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Wolf Parade gains popularity in Indie rock craze

Observer Scene | Thursday, October 6, 2005

What’s the best way to avoid relapse from sizeable media hype anticipating the release of your debut album? Put together a collection of a dozen or so outstanding songs and let the music speak for itself.

That’s what The Strokes did in 2001 – albeit the media frenzy preceding their first release far surpassed any band since – and that’s what Wolf Parade has done with their debut LP “Apologies to the Queen Mary.”

Bred from the loins of the phenomenally successful French-Canadian independent music scene and produced by Modest Mouse’s frontman Isaac Brock, the band’s first release shows potential it’s easy to get excited about. After the acclaim for their debut received by tourmates The Arcade Fire, our neighbor to the north has become the new Mecca for all things indie.

Bands such as Broken Social Scene, the now defunct Unicorns, Death From Above 1979 and the New Pornographers – among countless others – have created much of the most memorable music of the past several years. Building off his band’s runaway hit “Good News for People who Love Bad News,” Brock has left a rather indelible mark on one of the best releases of 2005.

While the album carries echoes of Modest Mouse’s mid to late ’90s albums, let’s not get carried away with comparing the two bands for fear of discounting the undeniable quality of “Apologies to the Queen Mary.” The main formula for Wolf Parade’s sound is by no means revolutionary – drums, guitar, piano and keyboards comprise the majority of the instrumentation in the 12 tracks. The key to the outstanding sonic texture is the often subtle, though at times potent, electronic elements that give the quartet a unique and rich sound that consumes the listener from the opening drum beat to the final lyrics of the last song.

The vocals of Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner, who faithfully share singing duties every other song through the first seven songs, chant certain lines repeatedly to form the lyrical backbone of each song. Upon initially noticing this, one would likely assume that the two songwriters lack any sort of creativity, but the poetic quality is undeniable in spite of the repetition.

On what is likely the strongest track of the album, “I’ll Believe in Anything,” Krug’s voice echoes the lines, “If I could take the fire out from the wire, I’d share a life and you’d share a life” and, “I said nobody knows you, and nobody gives a damn” to create the sort of anthem any angst-ridden ex-boy/girlfriend could shout along to with the windows down and the stereo cranked up.

The only lowlight – which is only marginally lackluster – is the directionless meandering of “Dinner Bells.” The drawn out seven and a half minute penultimate track starts off well, providing a down-tempo contrast to its primarily quickly moving counterparts on the album. Once the heart of the song ends, the band goes into a slow-paced, more electronically driven instrumental interlude that hints at a nice ambient sound, but comes across as little more than filler. This, however, does create the impression that the final track, “This Heart’s on Fire,” is an encore performance in which the band returns to the stage, reemerging from their dark, electronic cave to deliver yet another patently unique Wolf Parade performance.

Summing up their last track – and the album as a whole – Boeckner declares, “Sometimes they rock and roll, I’d rather stay at home in real life” as their final act of contrition to the Queen Mary.