Wolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary

[28 September 2005]

By Liam Colle

The Album of This Year's Decade

Forty-eight minutes of music to last all day. The ‘00s have already provided some amazing debut records and Wolf Parade join the flood with force. This is art and vigor, but vigor first. This is hart rock, overwrought and almost ridiculous. Like The Constantines, TV on the Radio and Funeral, the only thing saving Apologies to the Queen Mary from absurdity is their blind-sighted intensity. Irony is useless to these bands and it sounds like the malaise is finally crashing and burning. Listen to “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” and you’ll hear the death knells of yesterday’s cynical detachment.

It’s hard to make the things you do in a day count for something. That’s Wolf Parade’s point. Even for the most avant-garde, there’s probably only a few seconds in a day when one can actually be an artist. No matter how high-minded or righteous you are, you have to eat and the rent comes due. Of course these restrictive realities fluctuate depending on culture and class, but everyone faces the frustration of the day-to-day. The point is though, that this inevitability doesn’t have to equate with hopeless immobility. Wolf Parade attack cynicism and cash in on all their future allotments of artistic movement for one album that matters right now. Apologies to the Queen Mary magically melds the everyday with art, gravity with feeling, and creates something tangible yet wildly impractical.

It all sounds incredibly naive and would come across way too Disney if it wasn’t for the severity of the players in Wolf Parade. Arlen Thompson’s drums open the album and set up a momentous canvas for the rest of the band to work with. As Thompson bangs away with staggering authority, Hadji Bakara’s and Spencer Krug’s keyboard idiosyncrasies battle against Boeckner’s rough and heaving guitar. It’s wonderfully unrefined and utterly relentless. Their playing is so irrational that it borders on sublime. It’s as if they’re transcribing the frustration of the everyday, to which everyone is not afforded the luxury of expression.

What really distinguishes Apologies to the Queen Mary from just another ambitious rock album though, is the dynamic and accessible songwriting—and the voices that propel those songs from the streets to the stratosphere. Krug and Boeckner trade off vocal duties throughout the album, but it feels less like “it’s your turn to sing” than “I need that microphone now”. Take Krug’s “I’ll Believe in Anything” or Boeckner’s “This Hearts on Fire” for example. Both songs are born of the same laws of the howl as they churn and explode into anthems for the re-enchanted disillusioned. Not only will the melodies stick in your head, this stuff is going to get under your skin.

I’m not sure whether Wolf Parade will be around for that long, but this record should stand the test of time. Their hasty convergence and dramatic tactics make Apologies to the Queen Mary seem more like a torrid affair than a first step. Either way, it sounds as if we can add it to the pile of this decade’s best. Stumbling artists from our graceless times, Wolf Parade’s music might actually matter to some people.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/wolfparade-apologies/