Wolf Parade, Wolf Parade

Wolf Parade, <em>Wolf Parade</em>

Don’t fret, people of Canada. I know you’re probably getting kind of nervous about all the attention currently focused on your fair country by your less-well-behaved neighbors to the South, but I’m here to tell you that you really don’t need to worry. I know, I know — it’s a bit terrifying to hear Montreal, in particular, pegged as “the next Seattle/New York/Omaha/whatever,” since that happy little tag seems to be more of a curse than a compliment these days. But really, you don’t need to worry. For one thing, hundreds of mediocre American bands aren’t going to be flooding into Quebec in a vain attempt to cash in on “the Montreal Scene,” because, well, it’s hard to make it past the immigration authorities when the job title you put on the form is “Musician.”

Second, you folks are just too damn strange. I mean, I love The Arcade Fire to death, but if they weren’t a Canadian band, our wonderful American media wouldn’t be giving them the time of day. They wouldn’t fit the American rock radio/MTV/etc. mold, and so they’d end up toiling in college radio obscurity, sadly, for the bulk of their careers, only remembered after the fact as A Band That Influenced Other Bands (see the Pixies and Hüsker Dü about that one). Because they are Canadian, however, it’s okay that they’re weird; we expect that from you folks. You’ve got socialized medicine, you all seem to speak French as well as you do English, you tell our politicians they’re idiots, you have a state-run broadcasting company — frankly, we just don’t get you. So to have a band we don’t get coming from a country we don’t get, hey, that makes perfect sense, right? It’s part of the appeal, even, that Canadian alien-ness; you’re like the quiet, dangerous-looking kid with the tattoos who everybody steers clear of but all the girls secretly want to jump into the sack with. “Strange” is damn sexy. Unfortunately for us (and probably to your eternal relief), “strange” also generally means “unattainable.” We can look (and listen), but we can’t touch.

Finally, you folks have nothing to worry about because, to put it plainly, you’ve got the music to back it up. If somebody calls you “the next Seattle,” you can just snicker and shake your head, because unlike Seattle, where a small, small, small number of really good bands begat about a million crap bands, it seems like every musical product you folks throw at us lately is gold — you’ve not only got The Arcade Fire, but also Hot Hot Heat, The Stills, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, Black Mountain…the list goes on and on. (It helps, naturally, that Canada as a whole is a lot bigger and more diverse than Seattle, but you get what I mean.)

Then there’s Wolf Parade’s self-titled debut EP on Seattle-based (hmm…) Sub Pop Records. I was skeptical, at first, when I learned that the guys in the band have various links to other up-and-coming Canadians — “dear God,” I thought, “has it already come to this? Is the Canadian music scene already imploding?” I mean, Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner played guitar with The Arcade Fire, drummer Arlen Thompson’s in a band with an ex-Hot Hot Heat member, and singer/pianist Spencer Krug played with Frog Eyes and Destroyer and does his own thing as Sunset Rubdown; the only odd man out is electronics/synth guy Hadji Bakara. But don’t worry — having now actually listened to Wolf Parade more than a new times, I have to say that even with the taint of indie-rock interbreeding, I just can’t resist this little gem of an album.

“Shine a Light,” the first track, is all bouncing, head-bobbing synth-pop that somehow manages to pull off an almost “Western” feel despite the New Wave-y-ness. When “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” (which, along with “Shine a Light,” will also be released in September on the band’s first-ever full-length, Apologies to the Queen Mary) comes in, though, it dumps the synth feel right down the drain, going instead for stomping piano, plaintive vocals and a Modest Mouse-esque delivery, which is pretty appropriate, since Mouse frontman Isaac Brock apparently pretty much dragged the band onto the Sub Pop roster all by his lonesome.

“Disco Sheets” takes a step back and sideways, moving over into Interpol territory (if, perhaps, David Byrne was the band’s frontman). Frantic handclaps, jagged guitars, and propulsive synth-bass pulls the listener along at a nightclubbing pace, but the nicest moments come when the band deftly punches a hole in the tense atmosphere and interjects a pretty little melody or two. The EP’s rounded out by “Lousy Pictures,” which begins like a Funeral outtake but then morphs into a disjointed rhumba and then into a grand, majestic indie-rock song. At its end, I find myself smiling and tapping along, but at the same time I’m chuckling and shaking my head — ah, those crazy Canadians. How in the hell do they do that? Take it from me, folks: once our little spasm of Montreal/Victoria-love passes, things up in your part of the world will quickly return to normalcy. And judging by the music you’re already making, that’ll be just fine.

(Sub Pop Records -- P.O. Box 20367, Seattle, WA. 98102; http://www.subpop.com/; Wolf Parade -- http://wolfparade.cjb.net/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 1st, 2005. Filed under Reviews.

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