….Wolf Parade represents Spencer Krug’s most rockin’ of rock bands, and it’s easy to see why the quartet’s output might rank among his most celebrated work. And rock Expo 86 certainly does. He and his partner Dan Boeckner are back to their Wolfy ways for the new album, and Expo should satisfy fans to the extent that they were perhaps expecting. The bummer is that Expo fails to ever exceed those expectations. The album’s general mood aside (this is a decidedly darker affair than the group’s last effort, 2008’s At Mount Zoomer), Wolf Parade is still an indie band bringing the synth back into the forefront of the mix, the keys and their various textures driving the compositions in both melody and harmony. Guitars and drums are stacked up appropriately to fill out the band’s sound, matching the song’s more anthemic moments with a beefy mix that bolsters big sounds from all directions.
As lofty as their ambitions are on Expo 86, the band succeeds by never over doing it. And maybe that’s because, compared to some of the more goose-bump raising moments on their debut, their ambitions aren’t so lofty after all. Still, the new album is emotional without letting those emotions overpower the songwriting itself, which is consistently satisfying throughout, and only gets better the further you dig into the record. “Pobody’s Nerfect” is a highlight with an airtight guitar riff that stretches itself over the bar line and makes use of some sparser arrangements, dropping instruments here and there to give the song shape next to the frequently planar texture that fills out much of the album. Wolf Parade finishes strong with “Cave-O Sapien,” ramping up the energy into a driving drum beat and smart, tri-harmonized melodic movement.
But Wolf Parade really aren’t taking any daring chances here, opting instead for locked in, airtight song structures, solid performance (some really kick ass drumming, by the way), and a series of tracks that are all good enough. Maybe I’m just spoiled, and I’d be kidding myself if this was some new band’s debut and I wasn’t salivating buckets. But for a third album, Wolf Parade should be experimenting, pushing the envelope the way Krug has proven he’s more than capable of in his other projects. Don’t forget, Wolf Parade, that wonderful time when you, along with others likethe Arcade Fire, reminded us that it was OK, awesome even, to let your emotions get the better of you. Instead of letting go, Expo 86 feels somehow sheltered, holding in….