Wolf Parade is billed as a Canadian rock supergroup, featuring Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug and Dante DeCaro. Taking breaks from their respective projects and working quickly with producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire), Expo 86 comes across as a propelling piece, but one that ultimately falls short, all too often reflecting distinctly disparate parts more than a potentially promising sum.
The album starts mid-breakneck-riff on “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain”. As the listener claws to catch up, the musical proficiency is apparent, but the imagery is mangling. “Just another pair of boat shoes/ Walking away from the harbor,” Krug intones in between warnings of “You will never be born as a scorpion.” For the ominous – if obfuscatory – lyrics, the band finds a solid groove of gothic, ethereal rock.
Elsewhere on the album, “Little Golden Age” works well to chew on and eventually spit out glittering nostalgia and wistful lament. The rapid fire imagery (“With your headphone/ your coat/ and your dirty graduation gown” and resilient lyrics (“I don’t miss my little golden age”) produce the stadium-rock song they’re searching for. It’s unadulterated rock, unencumbered by regret.
The three tracks that close the album (“Ghost Pressure”, “Yulia”, “Cave-O-Sapian”) are bright spots but take unnecessary effort to reach. Too many of the lyrics mill about, delivered in the same David Byrne-ese intonation that seems to be popular (see: Interpol, The National) but they lack the support of similarly satisfactory songs.
However, this momentum is simply too few and far between on the record. Indeed, I suppose like anything super (groups, stars, sizes), things are best dealt with in moderation.