Wolf Parade’s debut, Apologies To Queen Mary, surprised almost everyone as the “little anthemic rocker that could,” ending up on many critics’ “Best Of” lists and remaining in people’s heads and iPods until long after. Of course, the album was not without its faults: spotty sequencing, lack of overall direction — issues you’d expect from a band formed on the desperate eve of its first show. Songwriters Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner hadn’t really established a rapport, and it showed. But despite these flaws, wolf Parade sold itself on the promise of barn burners like “Shine A Light” and “I’ll Believe In Anything.”

 

Their follow-up, At Mount Zoomer, felt like a step back for the band. Gone were the grandiose swoops and devil-may-care craftsmanship that thrilled listeners in the first release. Instead, Wolf Parade employed a more insular, tinnier approach that did not lend itself to a full-length album that held a listener’s attention. On the plus side, it was getting more and more difficult to distinguish between Boeckner’s songs and Krug’s songs. The album didn’t sound like two EPs worth of songs thrown together willy-nilly.

EXPO 86 shows that Wolf Parade have learned from past mistakes, showing confidence in both the group’s sound and purpose. EXPO 86 is a leaner, meaner At Mount Zoomer, which is what it really needed to be. The two principles in the band have learned a lot from each other; Krug’s songs are more exciting, energetic and accessible, while Boeckner’s are less predictable, more substantial. Best of all, the boys of Wolf Parade seem to have renewed their promise to rock it out.

“Little Golden Age” is the definite highlight of the album, soaring across the summerscape like the boys of summer themselves. All the old pieces are there: Boeckner’s chugging, Nick Zimmer-esque guitar lines, Krug’s sparkling synths and his oh-oh’s setting the table, Arlen Thompsons’ drums holding the line. “Little Golden Age” simmers with energy and adventure, a perfect summer treat.

The album begins not with a whimper but a bang, the pounding “Cloud Shadow On The Mountain” coming down on the listener like a hard rain. “Palm Road” is the sound of war being waged between Boeckner’s cool-as-fuck guitar and Krug’s goofy-as-shit moogs. The synth-heavy “Ghost Pressure” is a bastard son of Gary Numan, melodically silly and full of dark posturing like a good goth should be. The album is a little top heavy, losing some steam in the second half with songs like “Pobody’s Nerfect” (seriously?) and “Oh You, Old Thing,” which aren’t bad per se but maybe just a tad slower than everything else on the album. Fortunately, it all comes together for the strangest little butt-rocker so far, “Cave-O-Sapien.”

Listen to “Ghost Pressure” – DOWNLOAD MP3

All in all, fans of Apologies shouldn’t be afraid of EXPO 86. Wolf Parade have returned to their energetic ways, and the path traveled has made their unit a more cohesive whole (thank god). What once was little more than a side project constructed on a whim has now become a full blown musical entity, deserving of the respect and admiration they’ve received over the years.

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