I can think of few greater challenges for an artist than the weight of immense expectation. It is for this reason that we are often met with disappointment when comparing final products with the unreasonable images designed by record company hype machines. The very notion of an anxiously salivating audience stifles unhindered creativity in the musician who trades expression for immediate accessibility. Wolf Parade is an exception to this rule.

By the time they released their debut album, Apologies to the Queen Mary, scenesters were already set to tattoo song names beneath layers of snappy cardigan and pre-worn corduroy. Could you blame them? Produced by Modest Mouse front-man Isaac Brock, and selected to open for the Arcade Fire on their first post-Funeral tour, the band itself is the physical incarnation of the thriving Montreal and Victoria music scenes. Despite the immense buzz surrounding its release, Apologies to the Queen Mary proves that some statements are simply too great to be ruined by expectation.

Utilizing the dual-singer concept to its absolute fullest potential, the album manages to be instantly accessible, as well as increasingly gratifying with repeated spins. The tracks are split about fifty-fifty between the sprawling art-rock ballads of Frog Eyes contributor Spencer Krug, and the more conventional anthemic rockers of former Atlas Strategic singer Dan Boeckner. So much of the album’s story is told in the sublime friction and unexpected accord between the singers’ voices; the one, a Bowie-meets-Isaac-Brock yelp, the other; a radio-ready Joe Strummer-ish wail.

In standout “We Built Another World,” for instance, Krug’s urgent background vocals bring Boeckner’s confident howl to a dizzying climax. While the reverse is true in perhaps the album’s best track “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts;” Boeckner’s drunken refrains providing second-half momentum to his partner’s stomping melody.

Krug’s Lyrics in songs like “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts,” or the raucous opener “You are a Runner and I am my Father’s Son” are simultaneously abstract and crushingly direct. His manic cries somehow managing to capture the indefinable angst of a 20-something generation in search of relevant frontiers for creativity. Just as the record begins to teeter on the brink of artistic self-indulgence, structures change, and we are reminded just how much fun it can be to simply let go and enjoy the ride as one of Boeckner’s fist-pumping choruses swells to cathartic release.

Almost as rewarding as the vocal performances are the delicately interwoven lines of Boeckner’s Guitar and Krug’s keyboards, which snake toward common ends, but with just enough tension to pinpoint the feverish essence of the album as a whole. It would also be a crime to neglect drummer Arlen Thompson’s steady contribution, or the band’s ‘secret weapon’ Hadji Bakara, who is responsible for all the ghostly little sound effects and synths that add character and help define the project as a whole. All in all, Brock’s production delivers a well polished, memorable album that also maintains the core rawness of the band’s killer live show. If only more stadium rock were this clever; if only more artsy post-punk was this much fun.  [ END ]

Track Listing:

01. You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son
02. Modern World
03. Grounds For Divorce
04. We Built Another World
05. Fancy Claps
06. Same Ghost Every Night
07. Shine a Light
08. Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts
09. I’ll Believe in Anything
10. It’s a Cure
11. Dinner Bells
12. This Heart’s on Fire

Run Time: 47:52
Release Date: 2005