November 15, 2010 at 9:38 am by Deborah Ramos
There are two reasons why Wolf Parade shouldn’t work well together: the band has two singer/songwriters with distinctly different styles (which has proven the downfall of many bands,) and these two are such prolific creative forces that they’re involved in multiple other side projects (which nearly always leads to unfocused chaos.) Considering that Spencer Krug’s Sunset Rubdown and Dan Boeckner’s Handsome Furs both released their strongest work last year (with Dragonslayer and Face Control respectively,) Wolf Parade’s newest release, Expo ‘86, is even more of a coup. That the most cohesive and consistent Wolf Parade release comes immediately on the heels of their most well-received independent work is no coincidence; these musicians are at the top of their game right now.
Where all of Wolf Parade’s music is simultaneously dark yet catchy, the 80’s synth laden tracks of Expo ‘86 are especially danceable.The album was also recorded live to tape, with only vocals dubbed in afterwards. This is unexpected, as the album sounds painstakingly produced, and it made my excitement to finally see the band live at their first show in the area that much more palpable.
With a name like Ogre You Asshole, the opening band caught my interest and earned a bit of pre-show research on the interwebs. I found a glowing endorsement from Johnny Marr (The Smiths,) a slew of positive concert reviews and a MySpace page full of songs that instantly captivated me. This was all the more surprising because I (shockingly) don’t understand a word of Japanese, and it makes absolutely no difference.
Ogre You Asshole has two distinctly different sounds; one is heavily emo-based pop, vocalist Manabu Deto entering a somewhat feminine vocal range. Their other sound takes influence from Modest Mouse, Fugazi and Talking Heads, with more intricate melodies and ample opportunity to show off their technical skills. Though they’ll be hindered from popularity in the States by their Japanese lyrics, I’m betting these guys will be “huge in Japan” quite soon (if they’re not already.) Besides, their name apparently came from Modest Mouse bassist Eric Judy, after a line in the movie Revenge of the Nerds. Give ‘em a listen – good stuff.
It seems a little strange to equally love the styles of both Wolf Parade’s vocalists – Boeckner’s Bowie-esque vocals and slim stature are in direct contrast to the intensity of Krug’s unique wailing and hunched over hair-in-face performance. My pick for Krug’s best of the evening was “You Are a Runner and I am My Father’s Son,” it’s staccato keyboards an ideal complement to Krug’s oddities. Boeckner absolutely owned “Ghost Pressure,” it’s heavy synth coming from three members of the band playing keyboards, (though Krug was playing three at the same time, so technically that’s five.)
In recordings, it’s sometimes difficult to tell who’s in charge on each track, live they alternate songs nearly one for one, except when they’re backing each other, screaming at the same time.
I was pleasantly surprised “Oh You, Old Thing” was included in the set, it’s opening 80’s synth was the first song on Expo ‘86 that knocked me over. The song started everyone in the crowd jumping, which turned into an actual mosh pit for “This Heart’s on Fire.” All this excitement culminated with the entire audience screaming along to the lyrics of “I’ll Believe In Anything,” far and away the highlight of the night.
Wolf Parade closed the set with the slow drama of “Kissing the Beehive,” an appropriate selection, with both Boeckner and Krug sharing vocal duties on the track.
The band seemed genuinely touched by the response they received from the crowd throughout the night. While I always enjoy shows at The Social, tonight it seemed an especially perfect venue; filled just enough to seem energetic yet cozy.
Where the main set was a tight thrill-filled journey, the encore was a confusing let-down. My initial excitement when Krug said they were going to deliver one song from each album quickly descended into disappointment at which songs were selected. Not one of the encore songs had the same energy of the rest of the set, and I left in dejected sadness that my favorite off Expo ‘86, “Yulia,” was skipped from the evening.
Though a few songs were a bit too fast live, especially “Palm Road,” overall I couldn’t have been more pleased with the performance. It seemed the band was also satisfied by the show, which means hopefully they’ll be returning again soon.
What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)
You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son
Cloud Shadow on the Mountain
Fine Young Cannibals
Oh You, Old Thing
This Heart’s on Fire
I’ll Believe in Anything
Kissing the Beehive
Two Men in New Tuxedos
It’s a Curse