"There's plenty of effusive vocal gesturing, and wide-eyed, preacher style tub-thumping. However; there the comparisons must end, for the Waterboys never sounded like an unholy Ukranian folk tribute to Pere Ubu."
Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
Ahh, the trendy joys of Wolf Parade! It is, after all another one of those wacky Canadian bands that we are all told demand to be heard. Actually, I'm sorry but on this evidence they do deserve to be heard. Despite their sometimes over-angsty sound and rather pretentious song titles, (beat this wannabe poets; You are a Runner and I am My Father's Son is the title of the opening track) there's a rare creative energy at work here. Sometimes it is overbearing, sometimes it is confusing (not to say a tad annoying) but the band's debut reveals a great, rather unpolished amount of talent that just needs a little time and patience. The opening is great; You are a Runner and I am My Father's Son is gauche, clumping and clumsy – like the proverbial bull in a china shop. On this evidence there's a mad organist at large in Wolf Parade's ranks, an organist whose wobbly voice is augmented by early Queen-style backing vocals now and again. All too soon it's over. Modern World is somewhat quieter, though it retains the insistent quality and underlying thump of the first song. Quite why I don't know, but there's a nagging thought in the back of my mind that keeps surfacing and demanding my attention; namely the singer sounds uncannily like This Is the Sea period Mike Scott. Indeed he does. There's plenty of effusive vocal gesturing, and wide-eyed, preacher style tub-thumping. However; there the comparisons must end, for the Waterboys never sounded like an unholy Ukranian folk tribute to Pere Ubu.
It's all very heady stuff, most noticeably on Grounds for Divorce, a schizophrenic collection of sounds locked in a room together and told to get on with each other. Somehow the vocal narrative lends a semblance of order to it all. We Built Another World is a noisier version of the same template, and, although the drumming at times seems to be lifted straight from the more exuberant moments on the Modern Dance, I'm not complaining as it is pretty fabulous stuff. Fancy Claps is just nuts; a high speed stomp around the village hall, the rather Baroque vocal arrangements resurface here, lending a feeling of pomp rock to the proceedings. Same Ghost Every Night is the first authentic "slowie" on this disc, and it's a slightly bug-eyed lament, lots of serious banging offsetting a rather maudlin, lumpen song, big on "feelings and emotions", rather low on finesse. Everything is played rather too loudly as if the musicians are trying to keep warm. Still, these songs do possess a certain fried charm, especially near the CD's end.
A good example of this is Shine a Light; the nagging, harshly discordant guitar run presages a fabulous track, a track in which luckily the band restrain their collective exuberance - allowing in turn the listener some breathing space. It chugs away in a menacing fashion, very much like Sister Ray and is by far the best song on the LP. This is brilliant, jump-about stuff. Boy, do Wolf Parade like crazy titles; Dead Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts sounds like it reads; a slightly loony harangue over a jaunty stop-start melody. There are some great keyboard runs on this song which add a slightly ethereal quality to the ranting. I'll Believe in Anything follows on immediately. The noise suddenly cranks up a notch and everything sounds absolutely magnificent. It is as if after enduring a hell of a lot of collective drilling, the band has suddenly struck oil and knows it. This feeling is exploited for the rest of the song, and believe me, it's a shame when it stops. Its a Curse sounds like Wolf Parade's take on the Munsters theme tune, albeit more charming and wacky. Driver Bells is a fabulous thumping preacher-style assertion (the thumping of course is provided by those ubiquitous drums). The track has a bit more breathing space, which really lends a great deal of tension and power. Fore some reasons it reminds me of the similarly epic Lately by British Sea Power. Last up is This Heart's on Fire. This is pretty much straight rock, quite a shock when the rest of the LP is considered actually. Don't worry, the clippety-clop of the drums can't be kept out for long but still; it's a remarkably straight ending.
Well, what is there to say? I suppose that, once you've recovered from the assault at the beginning and mentally adjusted yourself to receive a great dollop of thumping drumming you will find that this is a fabulous record. Yes, it is gawky and nervous, sometimes overly arty, and it does wear its influences on its sleeve but it's a great piece of work. It's seriously recommended.
Words: Richard Foster.