It’s album number three for Wolf Parade, and we’re finally getting a sense of them as a band rather than a press sheet bio of performers who sound an awful lot like or who run around with better bands. Maybe all of that name-checking and “recommended if you like” comparisons have prompted a darker hue with Expo 86, but I like the end result, which is another way of saying that I didn’t think as highly of Apologies To The Queen Mary as everyone else seemed to.
Or maybe it was Ugly Casanova.
I lean more towards the Dan Boeckner material, probably because Expo 86 marks the first Wolf Parade that lives up to its lobos billing. Don’t worry, there’s still a bunch of that obligatory analog synthesizer wallpaper to match all of the pussyboy squeaks, yelps, and nervous vocal ticks that Boeckner and Spencer Krug dish up on the record’s eleven tracks. The fact that they’re manning up with guitars and letting the drummer kick the shit out his kit more than the snare and bass drum simplicity of Apologies is a nice touch too.
All of the racket helps blur the line between the absurd (“We built this city on cocaine and lasers” – “Pobody’s Nerfect”) and the damn-near witty (“The body takes the heart from place to place” – “Little Golden Age”), but more importantly it intrigues the listener just enough to put Expo 86 on repeat.
And repeated listens enable you to discover that Wolf Parade is learning the very important art of rocking the blues away—figuratively of course, because there’s no way that Howlin’ Wolf would sound as close to giving up as Boeckner and Krug do every time they seem to open their mouths.
A minor complaint is that the band gets so wrapped up in their own chemistry that Expo 86 can leave the timid fans in their wake, the inevitable “Did I do that?” Urkelism once the crash cymbal fades and the guitar feedback ends. It’s about five to ten minutes too long to be considered a great piece of work and the closer “Cave-O-Sapien” begins with such wonderful abandon that it’s a shame that it ends with such a blue-balls slow fade.
Wolf Parade has finally delivered an album that’s closer to the gloating praise it’s received for lesser efforts.