Tag Archives: Wolf Parade

People’s List #100: I’ve got water and I’ve got holes, oh.

100. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

Released: 2005

When I got it: Leaked, back when getting a leak was genuinely exciting, after emailing the band email address about when it would be coming out, back when that was something I wasn’t too embarrassed to do. I did buy it on CD though, right after it came out.

What I originally thought: Official Favourite Album status. Though I did (genuinely but obviously pretentiously) think a lot of the EP versions were better, I knew the words to every song and considered whether or not the relative placings of Spencer Krug songs and Dan Boeckner songs was optimal. I liked the Krug stuff most, which would hold true for solo material. I ordered a fake ID off the internet to see them play in Whelans when I was 17, got into arguments about how they were better than Arcade Fire, considered buying an organ from Music Maker and generally acted like a fan. I would categorise the intensity of my affection for this album as 10/10.

The interim: Here is the Wolf Parade tag dealing with everything Wolf Parade-related since 2007. Second album was briefly listenable, third was mostly bad. I got very into Sunset Rubdown.

What I think now: This is one of the albums on the list that probably only made it for legacy reasons, but I was really, really, really into it, so I couldn’t leave it off. I think it has aged fairly badly – not as badly as Arcade Fire, whose cloying levels of sincerity now seem pretty abominable, or Broken Social Scene, who were primarily (a form of) style over substance – because of its centrality to that mid-2000s Canadian indie rock sound, either in reality or in my mind. The result is that some of the moments that seemed to have genuine power now seem almost like cheap emotion. That is not to say that there aren’t still great bits. I just mean that the hollering on I Was A Runner doesn’t seem as fresh and feral as I once thought it did, even though Dear Sons and Daughters and I’ll Believe In Anything still work for all their abstract aspirationalism. And the Boeckner parts, as I suspected in 2005, are dullard Springsteen Revival music, especially given the development of indie rock in the interim. I enjoyed listening to it in full, but there were no new revelations and I’d probably need to be either drunk or very unhappy to do it again soon.

Fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole.

I can’t be the only person who was surprised to hear that Wolf Parade had announced another gig in Vicar Street. At the time, the now-leaked third album Expo ’86 wasn’t even a twinkle in Sordo’s eye. You don’t test new material at Vicar Street. Vicar Street, by virtue of its capacity, will give you a crowd who are doe-eyed and forgiving, but ultimately there for the hits.

I wasn’t even going to go, which, if it’s not a sign of the times, is at least an indication of the extent to which they have been pushed to the margins since acquitting themselves splendidly on the tour for the not-as-good At Mount Zoomer in 2008. Apologies To The Queen Mary is still a monument and a great album, but Mount Zoomer requires patience and a sieve, and all indications were that the new material was going to be outlandishly proggy in a testicular 70s prog kind of way rather than Sunset Rubdown’s meticulousness (Spencer), or just bad (Dan).

But hey, circumstances conspired.

Contrary to precedent, Dan was looking healthy and energetic. In keeping with the trend, but maybe to a greater extent than anyone could have been expected to anticipate, Spencer was hammered. They played a lot of the new record, and a mix of the older two, and were apologetic, which is a strange dynamic to have when your band has become more meaty than any of the original post-Arcade Fire curious listeners would probably have put up with at the time.

Some of the new ones were good. Spencer’s had elementally heavy bass, executed on his keyboard. Dan had one good one, and one that was probably the worst thing in Wolf Parade’s canon to date.

As for old songs, it’s impossible to fault I’ll Believe In Anything, because it’s one of the greatest things ever constructed. But Shine A Light, as part of the encore, was disappointing on a couple of unsettling counts. 1. Dan Boeckner messed up the words in front of a room in which probably 50% of people could have given them to him with exact cadence. 2. Spencer was just-take-him-home-to-bed drunk, or stoned, or something, and while he was playing a keyboard part in the right key, it wasn’t actually the keyboard part from Shine A Light. Which was confusing.

The last song of the encore, Kissing The Beehive, outstripped any of the new prog and brought the gig to a pretty impressive climax, but there were a lot of questions.

It was an enjoyable gig. It was Wolf Parade, for one. But their Album 1-Album 2-Album 3 trajectory is looking worryingly like the Strokes’, and it’s been clear for a while that Spencer’s best stuff is going elsewhere. And there is a definite point when you become Too Drunk to perform to that many paying attendees. It’s a point at which you have to ask exactly why Wolf Parade exists when it’s clearly creatively a side project for 50% of members. Expo ’86 will get to speak for itself in response to that, but early signs aren’t all that great.

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TDOM Day 07: A Song That Reminds You Of A Certain Event

Wolf Parade – Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts

The first club gig I ever saw was Wolf Parade in Whelans. I was 17, and was using the worst fake ID imaginable. I went with a couple of friends and then a couple of friends’ siblings, who were circa 21, and they all thought I wouldn’t get ID’d cos I was with them, for some reason (I am now 21 and still get asked for ID 90% of the time, never mind actually casting an ID-is-unnecessary shadow on others).

So I went up, with this terrible fake ID, and the bouncer, who I am pretty sure is Moustache Bouncer, who is still working there, said “that’s no good.” I basically collapsed, facially, with dread. He said “go on”. I thank you, Moustache Bouncer. It was a great gig.

The Year. 15-11.

15. Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
Model Citizen
A disclaimer: I know the production is dodgy. I know Something Global sounds bizarrely like Avril Lavigne. I know all that. It took me a month to get over minor differences in inflection on the songs that were on the EP. But I got there in the end. And as a collection of songs, it’d be remiss of me to leave this out just because it wasn’t the album to put Dublin on the world indie map. So many of these songs are undeniable. Lend Me Your Face, Jake Summers and Do You Karate are all the pulse-raising clumps of alternapop they were last year. But it’s heartening to note that the rookie Digifucker is, in all its abstraction, dejection and aggression, probably the album highlight. And Tie Me Up With Jackets, the lyrical high point of the Apes so far, wraps up a Side A that could fight almost anything and win. The second half is patchier, but that’s forgivable. Hot Press insanely said that it was the best thing in the world in 2008. It’s not, but it’s a remarkable display of off-kilter songwriting ability, and I have a feeling it will still stand on its feet in ten or twenty years because of it. Now, who has Steve Albini’s phone number?
MySpace, or if you’re interested, this is a blog named after a line from Jake Summers.

14. Roots Manuva – Slime and Reason
Big DadaHaving watched Dizzee Rascal and Estelle zoom past him to worldwide audiences and financial reward with half the lyrical talent,‭ ‬it would be easy to forgive Rodney Smith some bitterness.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬Slime and Reason’s opening line,‭ “‬A lot of people don’t know about Smith‭”‬,‭ ‬seems more like a simple statement of fact than a complaint.‭ ‬This album doesn’t acknowledge anything in its surroundings.‭ ‬Rather,‭ ‬it is the newest chapter in an isolated musical portrait of the artist.The music channels the place-in-time feeling of Jamaica’s Studio One recordings from the‭ ‬1960s and‭ ‬1970s.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬the dancehall carnival feeling is skin deep only.‭ ‬Smith is one of the difficult school of rappers that fight with their demons on acetate for the world to hear.‭ ‬Consistently throughout,‭ ‬but especially on closer‭ The Struggle‭‬,‭ ‬we find him enumerating the difficulties of balancing artistic advancement and the need to provide for others.There are few rappers in the world who can deal with real internal turmoil and lyrical skill in a successful way.‭ ‬Nas is one.‭ ‬Roots Manuva is another.‭ ‬There is enough universal wisdom in Slime and Reason to make it one of the most vital hip hop albums I’ve ever heard.
This review originally from Analogue. The video to Again and Again is pretty excellent, and you should check this uninformed review against that of the experts.

13. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Real Emotional Trash
Domino“Of all my stoned digressions, some have mutated into the truth”. That’s the first line of Real Emotional Trash, and that’s the premise. Follow the music where it wants to go. Wait for the beauty to reveal itself. In a world of indie rock that Malkmus perceives to be divided between the Gang of Four devotees and those who love Pavement, an album in the milieu of long-deleted 60s bands in the psychedelic slipstream of the more cocksure likes of Hendrix and The Doors is likely to be a curveball. Many felt it didn’t work, but my gut feeling is that comparative listening is hurting Malkmus. You can only judge an album on its own isolate merits. And Real Emotional Trash is not devoid of those, even if they are longer and a little more esoteric than those that preceded it. Simply following the music where it wants to go paints pictures with subtle and novel shades. But it is the clearings in the dense forest of fretplay that provide the true transcendence. When Out of Reaches or Gardenia pop out of the furore, context makes them something strangely, and differently, beautiful.
SM is at least my second favourite interview I’ve ever done. This video might be better though.

12. Wolf Parade At Mount Zoomer
Sub PopSpencer Krug is a font of genius. This is a truth self-evident. Picture his input to anything as a white light. The question is not whether or not the germ of inspiration is going to be there, the question is how it’s going to translate to music. In front of the white light, you could put any number of things. You could have slides of colour, or you could cast shadows, or block it off, or whatever. That all comes from the context. How do you listen to a new Wolf Parade album when the guy who wrote almost all of the truly great songs on the last one has spent the last three years taking his music into new, complex and much more developed regions with a different band? You just have to go with it. It works, too. It’s not quite the opus that the unjustly underrated Random Spirit Lover unfolded into, but the spidery, proggy character of Mount Zoomer stakes its own claim. It’s surprisingly unified for what is now essentially a side project for both primary songwriters. Songs such as Boeckner’s bare, aching Fine Young Cannibals and Krug’s more knotted but equally aching Call It A Ritual sit well together and create a slightly gothic feeling that evokes the wildness that the title describes.
Dan Gray did an interview which was pretty good, and Pitchfork did several.

11. No Age – Nouns
Sub PopI read a lot of magazines and blogs, and a lot of my friends do too, so I’ve slowly developed quite a stockpile of indie rock anecdotes. With some of them, I can remember the page and issue of the magazine it came from. With others, it’s just a vague recollection, or something I was told in passing. My favourite No Age anecdote is one of the latter. I was once told that Nouns was recorded and mixed in full, then played through a guitar amp and recorded again with a single microphone. This recording is the one that ended up being released. I’m not sure if this is actually true, but it sounds a lot like it and it’s a good story. It’s loud and it’s muddy. Everything is distorted. But it has more going for it than the half-attentive stoner shoegaze it might be, just on production values. Eraser bristles with static electricity before releasing it and heading into a hooky chorus. And Teen Creeps, as I have noted here before, is one of the tracks of the year. It’s not often that music perceptibly explodes on your speakers, but this does.
Metacritic is an interesting one here for such a divisive record, but bring the band and you have two friends for life.

Pretend it’s whales keeping their voices down.

Best album of the decade so far is… what? Hissing Fauna? Kid A? Feels? Don’t hold me to this in the future, but I’m going to throw out Apologies to the Queen Mary as a candidate. For an album that the band immediately regretted releasing, it’s pretty near flawless. From the anthem of Krug-ist ambiguity that is You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son to the Americana sincerity of Boeckner’s This Heart’s On Fire, the album does not drop the ball once.

“You’re being ridiculous”, I hear you legitimately say. Okay, hold on. Musical awakening was a slow process for me. No-one is born at 13 listening to Eno. It took me until the middle of my teenage years to accept REM, and they were the first band I ever got into that used clean guitars as anything other than a build-up to distorted guitars. And even with that “revelation”, it took me a long time to get beyond the Q Magazine canon.

The internet started making noise about Wolf Parade around 2004. An older friend included the six-song EP from that year on a data-DVD of music he thought I might not hate. While the likes of Clouddead or Tilly and the Wall took a few years to make an impact, Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts arrested me immediately. That song specifically. I listened to it over and over on the way to school. It became my most played song on the fledgling Audioscrobbler site. This feral man, speaking poetry over a darkened, muddy, organ-heavy backing. It all seemed to make sense.

When the album came out a few months later, I e-mailed their Yahoo address to gush. Arlen, the drummer, replied with a short note punctuated at the end with a smiley of some sort. “We are coming to play Dublin”. The fact that this man, from the far side of Canada, and seeming so shrouded in mystery and genius to me at that time, could reply – it knocked me over. I ordered a fake ID. Two, actually, in case one wasn’t enough (it wasn’t). And I got into Whelans, first time ever in a club at the age of 17, to see the drunken gods of Wolf Parade perform. It was phenomenal.

Things are different now. I don’t get as blindly impressed by music as I used to, which is a universal symptom of voracious consumption. I go to enough gigs that I have developed a dislike for large-venue shows because of the disconnect, but also because of the type of people who attend. I am, in short, a curmudgeonly and cantankerous grump. But Wolf Parade are back. And they’re Vicar Street sized now, apparently. So I get myself to a Ticketmaster.

Giveamanakick support. They are not acoustic metal, they tell us. Right. Let’s call them… stripped-down hardcore. They acquit themselves well, but it’s just a distraction. People are talking, or shouting conversation more accurately, and much as I try to pay attention, it’s tough.

Then Wolf Parade appear. Not like the men-apart that I saw in Whelans in 2005, but the Spencer Krug I saw stage-frighted and desperate for alcohol with Sunset Rubdown in Crawdaddy during exams, and the Dan Boeckner I saw, cocksure with sneaky-naggin vodka and orange in hand with Handsome Furs at Whelans. Sure, Arlen and Dante don’t have any new associations for me, but the absence of Hadji Bakara, Wolf Parade’s hyperliterate version of Bez, definitely helped make the experience seem slightly alien.

Until they started.

You Are A Runner. I don’t want to lapse into just recapping the set-list here, even though if you’re still reading you’re probably not a neutral. Spencer put one knee on his stool and adjusted his mic stand (he did this every time he began to sing for the entire gig, Asperger’s-style), and got to it. Maybe four songs in, he did the same again, but with the one-handed organ intro to Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts.

Spencer looked like he was about to get sick the whole time. Dan looked like he was about to fall over and have a fit. But they both look like that all the time, so it’s okay.

Songs off the new album came to life. It seemed to be especially Dan’s songs that got a lift from the live environment. Soldier’s Grin, the opener from At Mount Zoomer, was infused with energy. Language City was forgiven its awful lyrics (“Language city is a bad ol’ place…/Eyeballs float in space”) and made up for them with live brio.

The band seemed delighted with the size of the room and the traditionally over-enthusiastic Irish crowd. Dan in particular grinned at the end of every song, and even the fearful and moody Spencer managed a few “you guys are sweethearts”. But of course the true critic does not factor that sort of thing into the equation, especially the critic who sees Bruce Springsteen for the dull dad-rock man he is (me).

What made this gig the best since Animal Collective in secret at Whelans came after the epic set-closer Kissing The Beehive. If the longer songs off At Mount Zoomer began to lag a little, the encore was the perfect riposte. The Grey Estates was The Grey Estates, quintessentially Boeckner. But it was the final pair that blew the thing up.

Spencer Krug, whom I later drunkenly declared to be “my second favourite man” to whoever would listen, put his shoulder to the yoke. He put a knee on the stool. He adjusted the mic stand. He held down a C chord for a few seconds. I didn’t recognise it. Nobody did. It didn’t seem like the band recognised it either until Arlen began the individual snare hits that mark the beginning of I’ll Believe In Anything. Whether on Apologies To The Queen Mary or the first Sunset Rubdown album, it’s one of my favourite songs, and it took me into the moment like nothing in at least the past year. It was cathartic, ecstatic, chaotic and all other Greek words that describe unbridled brilliance.

This was followed, with what seemed like Sisyphean effort on the part of Spencer, by Fancy Claps. Guess what it was like. Okay, I’ll tell you. It was cathartic, ecstatic, chaotic and brilliant. “When I die, I’m leaving you my feet/When you die, you can stand up for me.” Sung, or yodelled or bellowed or howled or whatever Spencer does, with the conflicted conviction of one of the indie world’s few true geniuses.

It’s gigs like this that make me regret how positively I review other things, because it was on another level. It’s gigs like this that remind me what it was like when I heard things for the first time, or when I would commit myself blindly to bands. When they were mine, and I didn’t just listen to them but I owned them as well. I don’t know why I’m reminded of this, but I am:

Feed the gaping need of my sense, give me ad lib
To pray unselfconsciously with overflowing speech
For this soul needs to be honored with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven

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In keeping with the teetering tight-rope of legitimacy that this blog tip-toes constantly, I have taken this picture from the Flickr of HouseParade without asking. I hope the fact that we seem to have been near each other at the gig, and that it was a fantastic and communal experience, will stop him/her from pressing charges. Excellent picture, HouseParade!