October 29, 2005

Wolf Parade "Apologies to the Queen Mary"

There's a lot of hype propelling Wolf Parade into the music world's spotlight, and it's easy to understand why. Herky-jerky dance rhythms and quirky singing that's been lovingly produced by Modest Isaac Brock--gee, do you think that such a combination would not be hyped? Okay, okay, let's put that cynicism aside, shall we? Sure, the album sounds extremely trendy and hip in that post-New Wave, post-Indie Rock Canadian pop kind of way, but that's not the biggest complaint.

Apologies to the Queen Mary is a rather frustrating listen. Why does this record frustrate and challenge? It's simple: it's essentially two records by two different bands--one's a very good band, and the other's not a very good band. The cause for this duality is quite obvious: the band has two very different lead singers. Having two different lead singers is not an inherently bad idea, but it becomes a problem when the band's songwriting approach differs in such a dramatic manner. Spencer King sings in a glammy style that recalls David Bowie, while Dan Boeckner sounds like a poor imitation of Isaac Brock. (Brock has not only championed Wolf Parade for many years, but he also helped them get signed to Sub Pop and he produced Apologies.)

If Apologies' track listing had been better organized, the stylistic differences wouldn't be so bad or noticable. Instead, someone decided to alternate between singers from track to track. This decision resulted in an album that feels quite disjointed, and, at times, it feels like two different records by two different bands. One band, led by King, produces gritty, glammy polished new wave-pop not unlike Hot Hot Heat. His songs, including the great "Fancy Claps" and "I'll Believe in Anything," are rather interesting; they're both complex and minimalistic,.and they're songs that you won't soon forget. Boeckner's is a bit more lo-fi and a bit more indie-rock; his style is a bit more forgettable, and his songs are a bit mellower, as heard on "Modern World" and "Same Ghost Every Night," but he's also got a pop sensibility, as heard on the excellent single "Shine a Light." If Apologies had been a bit more organized and not so diplomatically divided, the album wouldn't seem so damn disjointed--which, ultimately, is a bit of a shame.

Apologies to the Queen Mary isn't a bad record, it's just flawed, and these flaws make it quite frustrating. With a little better organization, it would be a stronger record, and it's quite clear that the band has some good songwriting skills and a keen pop sensibility. When it comes to programming, though...

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.subpop.com/scripts/main/bands_page.php?id=438
Label Website: http://www.subpop.com

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