Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary

Wolf Parade
Apologies to the Queen Mary

So I guess the Wolf Parade album is a certifiable hit in the indie-rock world. I don’t imagine that there’s a whole lot new to say about it, as most people have probably heard it by now or at least read about the band. The best I can do is relate my reaction to the band, and it’s mixed.

A few of the songs grabbed me right away, but the rest didn’t do much for me. “It’s a Curse” has immediate appeal, owing to its stark guitar-harmonic intro. The song keeps the rhythm spare and driving, adding desperate vocals and keyboard touches. It ends with a prolonged rave-up after working its way through a Red Monkey workout. The song’s balance of the offbeat and the accessible makes it a winner.

A couple of other tunes, “Grounds for Divorce” and “We Built Another World,” have a lot to recommend them as well. “Grounds for Divorce” features near-caterwaul vocals whose jerky rhythms counter the steady drums and the martial, repetitive guitar chording. The tone of the song does seem to owe a debt to Modest Mouse, whose kinship to Wolf Parade has been documented endlessly. To my thinking, “Grounds for Divorce” rivals anything on Modest Mouse’s last album. “We Built Another World,” too, has a loose feel and a shambolic swagger, born probably of way too much time on stage. There’s something about the rush of the song that recalls early Talking Heads.

“Modern World” sounds like Beck singing to a backing track from Brian Eno’s first album. Its lyrics and its approach seem less developed than do those of the other songs. “Fancy Claps” turns up the tempo a few notches, in welcome contrast to the slower numbers like “Same Ghost Every Night,” which clunks along without much drive or direction. “This Heart’s on Fire” and “Dinner Bells” fall into a similar trap, where they don’t seem to have a whole lot to say or add to the album, yet they go on and on anyway.

The good songs on Apologies to the Queen Mary more than make up for the lesser ones, but taken as a whole, the uneven nature was a little disappointing. It could be the curse of high expectations, or it could be something else. The band certainly throws itself into most of its songs with conviction and feeling, which is admirable to be sure. I have to say, though, that I’ll probably reach for the first Shins album or one of the Modest Mouse releases when I want want to hear music in this vein.