Wolf Parade

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Apologies To The Queen Mary (2005), 7/10
Handsome Furs: Plague Park (2007), 6/10
Swan Lake: Beast Moans (2006), 6/10
Sunset Rubdown: Snake's Got a Leg (2005), 5/10
Sunset Rubdown: Shut Up I Am Dreaming (2006), 5.5/10
Sunset Rubdown: Random Spirit Lover (2007), 6.5/10
Sunset Rubdown: Dragonslayer (2009), 5/10
At Mount Zoomer (2008), 6.5/10
Swan Lake: Enemy Mine (2009), 5/10
Handsome Furs: Face Control (2009), 6/10
Handsome Furs: Sound Kapital (2011), 5/10
Expo 86 (2010), 5/10

Montreal-based Wolf Parade is the band of singer-songwriters Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug. Boasting two keyboards, they revised Arcade Fire's electro-pop intuitions and Modest Mouse's post-pop approach using a more encyclopedic palette. The first EPs yielded bouncy and crunchy ditties such as You Are A Runner (limping rhythm, psychotic vocals) and Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts, that were also included on their first album, Apologies To The Queen Mary (Sub Pop, 2005). Both the old and the new songs straddled stylistic border without ever falling clearly into one category or another. Modern World, propelled by liquidi piano, is an odd power ballad. Grounds for Divorce is catchy enough to be a pop hit but it is also too clownish to be one. It's A Curse is a quirky dance tune. Shine a Light borrows the rhythm from the Velvet Underground but the synth-line and the melody could be from a synth-pop ditty. The melodramatic ballads Same Ghost Every Night and Dinner Bells seem to make fun of the cliches of emotional rock (David Bowie without the make-up). Fancy Claps is the most futuristic moment, sort of Devo for the emo generation. The music is as eclectic as passionate, denying the dichotomy between brainy structure and emotional impact.

The Handsome Furs, formed by Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and his keyboardist wife Alexei Perry, debuted with the sparsely arranged Plague Park (2007), an album that used the drum-machine instead of the drums and managed to create an almost gothic atmosphere, and then uses it to sing blue-collar elegies. The Handsome Furs' Face Control (2009) contains I'm Confused and All We Want Baby Is Everything, frequently sounding like New Order or Human League: philosophical synth-pop.

Spencer Krug launched a side project, Sunset Rubdown, with Snake's Got a Leg (2005), de facto a solo album, and worked in Swan Lake with Dan Bejar of the Destroyer and Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes, debuting on Beast Moans (2006), a pretentious work that evoked the noise-pop of lo-fi rockers Polvo.

Spencer Krug's Sunset Rubdown released a more mature album, Shut Up I Am Dreaming (2006), containing The Empty Threats of Little Lord, the lengthy The Men Are Called Horsemen There and especially I'm Sorry I Sang on Your Hands that Have Been in the Grave. While still hampered by the self-indulgence of bedroom-rock, the album had moments of real eccentric grandeur.

Wolf Parade would have been darlings of the new wave with albums such as At Mount Zoomer (Subpop, 2008). Dan Boeckner's guitar (slightly atonal, then repetitive, then droning and anthemic and finally Neil Young-ianly distorted in the limping Soldier's Gun, against a folk-ish wall of sound created by the keyboards and flute) and Spencer Krug's keyboards (mining gospel and minimalist cliches to fuel the propulsive California Dreamer against dreamy guitar twang, or weaving post-twist tapestries for the feverish, Elvis Costello-ian The Grey Estates) can work wonders even with mediocre melodic material.
The spare, surreal An Animal In Your Care and the cabaret-paced Call It Ritual find a middle ground between radio-friendly and intellectual-friendly; while the electronic arrangements and danceable beat of Language City (a rootsy version of the Cars) and the slow ska-tinged Fine Young Cannibals flirt with the mainstream ballad.
The eleven-minute melodrama Kissing the Beehive (including a three-minute instrumental coda of dance music) stretches the talents of the duo a bit too thin, but they remain two of the greatest pop wizards of the decade.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D'Onofrio)

I Wolf Parade di Montreal sono la band dei cantautori Dan Boeckner e Spencer Krug. Sfoggiando due tastiere, hanno ripassato le intuizioni elettro-pop degli Arcade Fire verso un sound più enciclopedico. Il loro primo EP si abbandonava a canzoncine pimpanti e croccanti come You Are A Runner (ritmo zoppicante, cantato psicotico) e Dear Sons And Daughters of Hungry Ghosts, anch’esse incluse nel loro primo album Apologies To The Queen Mary (Sub Pop, 2005). Sia i pezzi vecchi che i nuovi siedono a cavallo dei confini stilistici, senza mai collocarsi chiaramente in alcuna categoria. Modern World, spinta da un liquido pianoforte, è un’atipica power ballad. Grounds for Divorce è abbastanza orecchiabile da risultare un successo pop ma è anche troppo buffonesca per poterlo essere. It’s A Curse è un’originale canzone dance. Shine A Light prende in prestito il ritmo dai Velvet Underground ma la linea di synth e la melodia potrebbero appartenere ad una canzoncina synth-pop. Le ballate melodrammatiche Same Ghost Every Night e Dinner Bells sembrano prendersi gioco dei clichè del rock emozionale (David Bowie senza il trucco). Fancy Claps è il momento più futuristico, una sorta di Devo per la generazione emo. La musica è elettrica e passionale, e nega la dicotomia tra struttura cerebrale e impatto emozionale.

Handsome Furs, formati da Dan Boeckner dei Wolf Parade ed Alexei Perry, hanno debuttato con Plague Park (2007), un album scarsamente arrangiato che utilizza la drum machine al posto della batteria e riesce a creare un’atmosfera quasi gotica, per poi utilizzarla nel cantare elegie "blue-collar".

Spenser Krug lancia un side project, Sunset Rubdown, con Snake’s Got A Leg (2005), di fatto un album solista; poi seguono Shut Up I’m Dreaming (2006), nella vena del synt-pop anni 80, ed infine Random Spirit Lover (2007). Lavora anche, con Dan Bejar dei Destroyer e Carey Mercer dei Frog Eyes, al progetto Swan Lake che debutta con Beast Moans (2006), un lavoro pretenzioso che evoca il il noise-pop dei rockers low-fi Polvo.

I Wolf Parade, con album come At Mount Zoomer (SubPop, 2008), sarebbero certamente stati perfetti idoli della new-wave. La chitarra di Dan Boeckner (che nella zoppicante Soldier’s Gun, contro un wall of sound folk di tastiere e flauto, suona leggermente atonale, poi ripetitiva, dopo droning con tutta l’aria di un inno, infine distorta alla Neil Young) e le tastiere di Spencer Krug (che sfruttano i clichè minimalisti e gospel per alimentare la propulsiva California Dreamer contro un sognante twang di chitarra, oppure intessono tappeti post-twist per la febbricitante, Elvis Costello-iana The Grey Estates) riescono a fare meraviglie con materiale melodico mediocre.

La sobria, surreale An Animal In Your Care e Call It A Ritual, con la sua ritmica da cabaret, si collocano a metà strada fra l’"ascolto radiofonico" e l’"ascolto intelligente"; mentre gli arrangiamenti elettronici e i beats danzerecci di Language City (una versione un po’ roots dei Cars) e la lenta Fine Young Cannibals, tinta di ska, flirtano con la ballata mainstream.

Il melodramma di undici minuti Kissing The Beehive (inclusa la coda strumentale di musica dance, che dura tre minuti) stiracchia un po’ troppo il talento dei due, che restano comunque tra i più grandi maghi pop della decade.

In the meantime, Sunset Rubdown had become more than just a side project. Random Spirit Lover (2007) excels both at acid pop ditties such as The Mending of the Gown and For the Pier, and surreal constructs a` la Syd Barrett such as Magic Vs Midas. Typical of the contradictions of his method is the abrasive and limping rigmarole of The Courtesan Has Sung. The most eccentric moment might be Up on Your Leopard Upon the End of Your Feral Days, a psychotic chant against a backdrop of deranged amusement-park melodies and marching rhythms, followed by the equally sloppy and vaudevillian Stallion. On both one can detect the indirect influence of Syd Barrett. Trumpet Trumpet Toot Toot is pure folly: rhythm, vocals, arrangement, electronics all out of control. In a sense, The Taming of the Hands that Came Back to Life is too serious for this album and sounds a bit out of context. This album did more to establish Spencer Krug as a major composer than any of the Wolf Parade albums.

Sunset Rubdown's Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar, 2009) featured a new member, Marc Nicol (bass, drums, kalimba). The sound is streamlined and solemny melodic for Silver Moons (reminiscent of Warren Zevon) and for the folkish Nightingale, and robust throughout, particularly the loud guitar and stuammering rhythm of Idiot Heart (with some David Bowie-esque overtones). You Go on Ahead is even too "normal" by his standards, sounding like Krug is trying a bit too hard to find the chorus/bridge that will catapult him out of the underground. However, there are still plenty of eccentric touches, starting with the neurotic, tribal, distorted seven-minute shuffle of Black Swan. And, no matter how convoluted and disfigured the song structure, catchy refrains surface from every corner of Krug's soundscape. The biggest disappointment comes with the ten-minute closer, Dragon's Lair, a rather sparse song given its duration, that does little to endear itself other than talk too much.

Furthermore, Swan Lake had returned with Enemy Mine (2009), that contains Mercer's Spanish Gold 2044 and Krug's Paper Lace.

Handsome Furs fully converted to trivial synth-pop on Sound Kapital (2011), dominated by Alexei Perry's electronic keyboards (What About Us).

Abandoning the progressive pretenses of At Mount Zoomer, Wolf Parade's Expo 86 (Sub Pop, 2010) was a straightforward collection of sings, mostly energetic and occasionally poppy, but it should have been just an EP, or maybe just a single with What Did My Lover Say.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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