“Expo 86” is the perfect title for Canadian indie rock group Wolf Parade’s most recent release, as the band clearly has a hard-on for
The album was released late June on everybody’s favorite Northwest indie label, Sub Pop.
Before the music even starts, you get a sense as to where this CD is going. The cover features a grainy, sepia-toned picture of
alienated youth of old — what seems to be a common theme among indie rockers (e.g., Manchester Orchestra, Belle and Sebastian,
etc.), while the album packaging wants you to believe that there’s a classy vinyl record waiting for you inside. (It’s packaged all nice-like
in various sleeves and slides and whatnot.) Everything about the case wants you believe it’s a breakthrough in retro-flashback-isms.
It’s not. Within mere moments of hitting play, the listener barraged by what sounds like a lost b-side from some unreleased “Talking
Heads” album that maybe should have just stayed hidden. (Lets play a game called “Substitute Dan Boekner’s quirky lyrics for ‘you may
find yourself sitting behind the wheel of a large automobile.’” Try it! It works.)
After we recover from that first minor abrasion, we muster up just enough energy to listen to the next couple of songs. This seems
to be about how much effort the band spent writing them. The lyrics are slightly smothered behind unimaginative instrumentation and
horrendously repetitive drumming. (Hitting a snare in rhythm is not drumming, why do you think we haven’t heard new White Stripes in
a while, hmm?)
The middle of the album is where the meat is, and things pick up a bit around track five, “In The Direction Of The Moon.” With deep
bass groves and light synths working in and out of ethereal down tempos and vivacious vamping, we manage to distance ourselves
from the mediocre first few tracks.
Still, we find our Canadian friends channeling the mid-’80s with some Cure-esque warbles (“In The Direction Of The Moon”) and
some Depeche Mode-y synth and bass (“Ghost Pressure”). And we even get some hard driving rock songs (“Nobody’s Perfect,” “Two
Men In New Tuxedoes”) to round it out.
However, just because it reminds you of music you’ve enjoyed in the past doesn’t mean that it’s going to be memorable. The lyrics
and melodies are not the kind that have you singing along, and the music itself lacks the depth that its predecessors had. Many of
the songs start with good intentions but end up falling into the same repetitive nonsense present in all the other songs. (And I actually
thought that we were going to hear some real drumming on “Two Men In New Tuxedoes.” Silly me.) Rather than working its way into
our memories, it instead finds itself in our subconscious (but not the cool, Freudian kind; the kind that finds you volunteering to do
something else so you don’t have to focus on the music).
While the very core of this album wants you to believe that we’re right there with the band at that 1986 Vancouver World’s Fair, it
actually leaves us washing dishes instead.
Philip Yovetich/KSLC 90.3 FM
Philip Yovetich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.