Wolf Parade made their mark in the 2000s. The Canadian group’s 2005 debut “Apologies to the Queen Mary” was rambunctious and noisy, and it propelled the young Montreal-driven indie rock movement. It both borrowed significantly from and filtered out much of the weirdness of its producer Isaac Brock’s claim to fame, Modest Mouse, and it was far less gimmicky than its Canadian contemporary Arcade Fire. The record was nothing special, and it’s probably a bit overrated now, but it was enough to carve out a role in shaping indie rock in the mid-2000s. Their next two albums followed in 2008 and 2010; they succeeded in eliminating the components that nearly made Wolf Parade a Modest Mouse knock-off. But despite seemingly predetermined critical success, they failed in replacing those components with anything unique. Now, after a seven-year hiatus, Wolf Parade have released “Cry Cry Cry”, their most interesting and refined record yet.
“Lazarus Online” reveals this right off the bat. The dramatic, piano-driven track, inflected by synths and booming drums, is a confident shift in sound and a demonstration of some of singer Spencer Krug’s best work with Wolf Parade. Its production fills a room with echoing notes and Krug’s compelling, Bowie-esque voice declaring “Let’s rage against the night.” Dan Boeckner’s “You’re Dreaming” digs up the ’80s influences from the depths of “Lazarus Online,” bringing organs and synths to the forefront of this upbeat jam. Its jumpy tempo and new wave feel is more indicative of the album’s sound than the opener. The highlights that follow, including “Incantation,” “Am I an Alien Here,” “Artificial Life” and closer “King of Piss and Paper,” do a fantastic job of blending the guitar riff bursts and chaos that characterized Wolf Parade’s previous albums with the newfound elements of ’80s synth rock.
The album’s weaknesses lie in its occasional retreads of its predecessors’ generic sounds. Single “Valley Boy” is the most forgettable track on the record, “Flies on the Sun” reverts back to Modest Mouse and “Weaponized,” while saved by a balladic breakdown halfway through and an electronic outro, suffers from Boeckner’s choppy vocals. Flaws like these occur a bit too frequently to call this album great, but they don’t take away from the successes of their surrounding tracks.
“Cry Cry Cry” is a listen that’s both entertaining and deeper than expected, with just a few skippable tracks. Though it’s not groundbreaking by any stretch, it fills the void left by Isaac Brock’s departure as producer following “Apologies to the Queen Mary.” Having added the instrumentation of New Order’s rock side and the drama of David Bowie to its palette, Wolf Parade has found a sound that is just barely unique enough to stand out.