Sounds like: Wolf Parade missed themselves as much as we missed them
Those of you who might have been following my exploits at Ottawa Bluesfest these past few weeks, especially the more observant among you who remembered that I purchased a five night pass, might be wondering what happened to my final review. Indeed, I did attend the festival one more time, last Saturday, the 16th to be exact, but at some point during the day, I put away the proverbial notepad and decided to just enjoy the day’s weather, the beer, and the performances. However, in the intervening days, I’ve been listening almost non-stop to the music of the night’s headliner on the Monster Energy stage, and a strong contender for my favourite set of the festival, Wolf Parade.
I was first turned on to their music with their incredible, Polaris Prize-nominated debut album, “Apologies to the Queen Mary”, over a decade ago. There was something ridiculously invigorating in the Canadian quartet’s off-kilter and raw alt-rock sound. And instead of being a source of detraction, the very different singing styles of the two principal songwriters, Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner, served as a rallying point and set them apart from very their peers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as enthused with their follow up, 2008’s “At mount zoomer”, and though 2010’s “Expo 86” was a marked return to form, it was their debut that I kept returning to. And of course, when they announced their hiatus in 2011, I was quite disappointed that I never got a chance to see them live.
Both Krug and Boeckner have always been quite prolific with other projects – Krug with Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, and Swan Lake and Boeckner with Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and Operators – but these only increased with Wolf Parade’s dissolution. And though I always loved Krug’s songs on “Queen Mary”, I could never (with the exception of a few Sunset Rubdown tunes) get into his other bands, much like Dan Bejar’s Destroyer, without a sounding board (Boeckner), his songs were just too weird for me. On other hand, pretty much every pot that Boeckner had his fingers in, I loved. I finally got to see him live last summer at last year’s Bluesfest with his new band, Operators, and was struck at the time by his humility, the complete absence of rockstar arrogance, and in its place, only a passion for music.
And so when Wolf Parade announced they were reforming earlier this year, I was clamouring to learn when and where I could catch them on their tour. And when they released an EP of new material in May, I was right there, fully expecting greatness and rightly so. All four songs are explosive, with Krug and Boeckner penning and supplying vocals for two songs apiece. The video below is of the band performing the final two songs on the EP together as one, much as I remember them doing on Saturday night. Krug’s inimitable vocals grace “C’est la vie way” over a wash of swirling synths and driving guitars and Boeckner takes up the anthem with his rock and roll throwback sensibilities on “Floating world”. It’s like the two push each other headlong into excellence.
And you can see it live. I knew what I was going to get with Boeckner and his frenetic and jittery guitar playing but I was equally impressed with Krug, hammering at the keys like a slightly more crazed Jerry Lee Lewis. And the rest of the band too, Arlen Thompson on drums and Dante DeCaro on guitars, provided their own energy and passion to the performance. There was little to no banter with the audience but none of us seemed to care. It was just enough for all us to be there, experiencing the music and shouting along to our favourite Wolf Parade songs, like “Dear sons and daughters of hungry ghosts”, “You are a runner and I am my father’s son”, “Fancy claps”, “Oh you, old thing”, and “I’ll believe in anything”. The only real disappointment during their set was when it came to an end and they didn’t return for an encore.
These two songs give a sampling as to what it was to see them live and if they can manage to carry this through to a full LP worth of songs, their next album (I’m hoping there will be one) could very well be the album of the decade.
The photos at the top of this post are just a few of those that I took at the show. For more, check out the album on my Facebook page.