Posted by: Ryan Allen on June 30, 2008 at 10:00 am


Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer (Sub Pop Records, 2008)

MP3: “Soldier’s Grin”

It’d be easy to evaluate At Mount ZoomerWolf Parade’s second act to their first, 2006’s Apologies to The Queen Mary — through the scope of an extremely successful band, following up an extremely successful debut album. On the other hand, it’s almost hard not to, as sophomore albums are generally sliced open with a slightly sharper edge of the sword the second time around. But the reality here is that even though At Mount Zoomer is technically Wolf Parade’s second record, it seems more like the fifth or sixth, considering band members Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner’s side-project addiction. At this point, any fan of Apologies to The Queen Mary has become well versed in each songwriter’s distinct style: Boeckner writes the jean jacket anthems; the dirty knees rockers that nod to Springsteen and Strummer, with songs full of sweat, jangley chords, triumphant melodies, and a scratchy delivery that speaks of countless nights spent smoking and drinking cheap whiskey. Krug is of a different animal, crafting D&D-inspired fantasy jams, where dragons, witches, and unicorns commiserate under David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust cape, with washes of cheap keyboard noises falling from the sky like demented ice crystals. Each have gotten their ya-ya’s out in the interim between Wolf Parade albums, with Krug going even further down the prog-rock path with Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake, and Boeckner finding the perfect amalgam between Suicide’s junky electro and Tom Petty’s dusty-road rock with Handsome Furs. So, listening to the nine new songs that make up At Mount Zoomer — four sung by Boeckner, five by Krug — you’re getting what you expect. Mostly, that is. Things start off familiar, as Boeckner’s “Soldier’s Grin” and “Language City” are instantly gratifying and upbeat, full of slashing chords and his anguished bark — and especially welcome if the minimalist dirges on the Handsome Furs record left you less than fulfilled. Krug’s “Call It A Ritual” and “Bang Your Drum” work in similar ways, proving that his version of medieval-inspired pop is much better suited with the other members of Wolf Parade around to edit his ideas into concise 3-minute tunes. The other five songs, however, find the band playing with the formula, as songs like Krug’s “California Dreamer” — with it’s quickened tempo and elaborate storytelling — could easily be one of Boeckner’s. On the flip side, a song like Boeckner’s “Fine Young Cannibals” — six-and-a-half minutes in length, full of 80s-movie synths — sounds like it could have come from Krug’s spaced-out mind. It is during those moments — as well as throughout the nearly eleven-minute closer “Kissing the Beehive” — that Zoomer is less of a second album, and more of a reunion after some time spent away, like two lovers misguided lovers coming back together to make for a stronger relationship. In this case, Zoomer is the make up sex, and it’s great fun to listen to them bang again. — Ryan Allen

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