In on the Buzzkill?
“Oh Canada!” That seems to be about all music journalists can say1. I wasn’t aware of how much I had internalized their words2. Though not perfect, Wolf Parade has shown the world they are ready to compete with their Quebec class—and are armed with some mean facial hair to prove it 3. Unintentional plagiarism is an oxymoron4, and I’m not here to shit on Wolf Parade5 / with a stolen voice6. You like the Arcade Fire, right? Everybody does! Well, except for me and like three other people on this planet (seriously, I’m keeping count) 7.
11 Apr 2006: Theatre of Living Arts Philadelphia
I don’t hate Wolf Parade just because they sound a little too much like Modest Mouse8. The Wolf Parade/Modest Mouse connection is one that has been stressed over and over again9. I still remember the excitement felt when I first heard Modest Mouse more than a decade ago10. But Wolf Parade is not merely a Modest Mouse imitator11. In fact, I actually kind of like their record. “Grounds For Divorce” would have held up just fine on The Moon & Antarctica12. There is no such thing as originiality13. A band with a strong musical orientation should have little snatches of other peoples’ sounds floating around in their heads14. Eliminate any inappropriate similarities15. In short, it’s a real good record, and you’ll probably have to listen to it whether you want to or not16. This review is formulaic ‘cause that’s, like, the point, right… that’s soooo “Mehta”17! This band will change your life18.
Believe the hype19. Don’t believe the hype20. Franz Ferdinand is the new hype21. The Arcade Fire is the new hype22. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is the new hype23. Hype is the new hype24. Counterhype becomes simply a more evolved kind of hype25. If guitarist Dan Boeckner, who alternates lead vocals with Spencer Krug, is sick of the hype—and he is—that doesn’t take away from the fact that Apologies actually lives up to the hype26. Of course, the hype is so three months ago. I heard the first buzz from Wolf Parade (from another Sub Pop group) months before their album landed in the indie media’s lap27. (I am self-important.) But couldn’t this pre-release buzz create unrealistic expectations?28? The massive hype can drive you crazy29, but it may be far more interesting than the music itself. If media hype could actually kill a band30. Fortunately they are also enormous fun to listen to—think the dancier little brother of Modest Mouse31. I am the new hype32.
Phew. Glad to have that out of the way33. So, you’ve probably heard the hype until it all started to blur together—Alltomorrowspartiesarcadefireisaacbrocknewyorktimes subpopbelieverliveshowphenomenon34—but this overgloried history shouldn’t really matter35. In order to sustain relevance, in order to remain in that benevolent glow of having moved culture forward, any tastemaker needs to repeat its success36. While such proclamations tend to cause scenesters to collectively roll their eyeballs37, fortunately for the droves of droves of pre-release press that surrounded Apologies, Wolf Parade delivers the goods on its debut38.
Even mentioning the hype is cliché39. Scribes may spend pages trying to write it away40—a lot of that stuff is written by frustrated creative writing students41—but Wolf Parade’s live show is just as carnally engaging42. As I stood in the back of the TLA in Philadelphia watching Wolf Parade open their set, I couldn’t help but think of the Bravery43, while the piano-based melodies on songs like “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” sound more influenced by ivory rockers like Spoon and even Ben Folds44. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that45 when you play large shows with huge P.A. systems, you have a responsibility to do the best job you possibly can do, and not have utter contempt for people46. Wolf Parade greeted the sold-out TLA with47 a new bell to ring / a new song to sing48 featuring vocals by Spencer Krug and a really sweet guitar intro. Without pausing, The Parade launched into a rockin “Shine a Light”49. The uninitiated beware—if you catch Wolf Parade when all cylinders are clicking, you’re not likely to think about another band for some time50, and / it’s getting better all the time51. The pressure to be heard amounts to a pressure to effuse about everything, to sweep everyone up in a cotton-candy fluff of phony positivity52.
We have no way of making them any quieter53. Broeckner had too-long shaggy brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were always half shut54. As they tore through most of the new album, usually alternating between Krug songs and the Boeckner rockers55, they paused briefly and Boeckner mentioned the disaster that was the last time they were in Philly, when they broke up and got back together between the end of the set and the encore. Wolf Parade is that kind of band; they’re so full of so much raw energy and original insight that56 I thoroughly enjoyed mid-set extended jam version of “This Heart’s on Fire”, with Boeckner channeling both Iggy Pop and The Boss simultaneously57—but it’s true; live Dan and I sort of yelp around a lot58—as the bearded Arlen Thompson carried the groove on his back59. The slightest technical malfunction can throw the whole system out of whack60.
Fortunately for all of us, the songs that Wolf Parade are writing are so good that61. At the time, my friend and I talked about how it sounded62—just be quiet63—but beneath the snobbery and geeky influence-detecting64, sign me up as the grand marshall for this parade, I can’t wait to see them again65. This band will change your life66. (I’ll believe in anything67.)
* * *
2 Kaavya Viswanathan’s statement as issued by Little, Brown
3 Chicago Innerview
6 Wolf Parade, “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son”
13 Thomas Mallon, “How Academics Responded to My Book
14 Language Log
15 Kaavya Viswanathan’s statement as issued by Little, Brown
16 Tiny Mix Tapes
21 Common knowledge circa early-to-mid 2004.
22 Common knowledge circa late 2004.
23 Common knowledge circa late 2005.
32 It’s true.
34 Lost at Sea
37 The Stranger
45 Kaavya Viswanathan’s statement as issued by Little, Brown
48 Wolf Parade, “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”
50 Pop Montreal
51 Wolf Parade, “This Heart’s on Fire”
53 Now Toronto
54 Kaavya Visnawathan, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life
56 Pop Montreal
60 Pop Montreal
61 Pop Montreal
63 Wolf Parade, “Shine a Light”
67 Wolf Parade, “I’ll Believe in Anything”