Album review: Wolf Parade’s ‘Expo 86’

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On its third full-length, this Canadian indie-rock outfit appears no less interested in noise and disjunction than it’s ever been: “Palm Road” bristles with fuzzy guitars, “In the Direction of the Moon” sports a squelchy vintage-synth riff, and “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)” lurches from verse to chorus with a herky-jerky irregularity that keeps you unsure of what’s coming next.

Yet perhaps in spite of themselves, the members of Wolf Parade — who also put in time with a handful of other bands, including Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown — are also improving as songwriters, crafting shapelier melodies and figuring out how to use rhythm to drive toward an emotional climax.

In fact, the best tracks on “Expo 86" offer a kind of art-damaged version of the Bruce Springsteen worship that’s swept indie rock lately; “Little Golden Age” has one of those “whoa-oh-oh” vocal lines that somehow feels both mournful and triumphant at the same time. Elsewhere, a lovely, Beatlesque chord change crops up in “Two Men in New Tuxedos.”

Unlike the Beatles or Bruce, these guys don’t seem to have much to say. (“I don’t know how to stop it at all,” Dan Boeckner sings in “Pobody’s Nerfect,” and he might be referring to the word soup in which this album floats.) Still, energy versus resistance can make for a pretty compelling narrative itself.


— Mikael Wood

Wolf Parade
“Expo 86"
Sub Pop
Two and a half stars (out of four)

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