Recreating the magic of something like Apologies to the Queen Mary is no easy feat, yet it shines as a stunning example for those who might want to make music matter again.
It’s been almost 11 years since Wolf Parade made its full-length debut with Apologies to the Queen Mary, an adequate amount of time for early 2000s nostalgia to kick into effect. Even if a reissue of one of the best albums of the 2000s and the pretty great EPs that preceded it were to provoke a return to the sort of experimentation expertly on display here, Apologies to the Queen Mary’s formula seems so expertly hewn that recreating it in other hands seems nearly impossible.
Listening to Apologies to the Queen Mary can be a bit like witnessing a square peg fitting snugly into a round hole. The bizarre yet seamless marriage of Dan Boeckner’s earthy anthems and Spencer Krug’s lofty -- well -- weirdness breeds a unity free of any toe-stepping or one-upmanship.
Not only this, but the two songwriters work wonders in elevating each other’s tunes, Boeckner’s sometimes heartlandish accessibility grounding some of Krug’s manic tendencies; Krug’s arty insanity adding some extra edges to Boeckner’s full throttle anthems. Take for example “Modern World” in both its EP and full-length forms: the EP version’s nightmarish carnival synths create an atmosphere of neurosis, whereas on the streamlined album version the keys have become more homey but still dolefully eerie.
The magic partnership is at its most brilliant in the album’s blinding middle section, where Boeckner and Krug go two for two. Boeckner’s “Same Ghost Every Night” is alienated and wistful, his “Shine A Light” the sort of indie anthem that makes you want to shout along whether you’re listening alone or among strangers and friends. Krug follows with “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” and “I’ll Believe In Anything”. With the former, he picks up the narrative thread of his band mate’s “Same Ghost Every Night” and fashions an anthem to beautifully suit his lunatic sensibilities with the latter. Likewise, Krug’s “Dinner Bells” and Boeckner’s “This Heart’s On Fire” work as two distinct closing statements. “Dinner Bells” takes the route of epic yet serene heartbreak, while “This Heart’s On Fire” raises the roof beams even higher than “Shine A Light” in terms of full throttle affirmative anthems.
But enough of heaping praise on Boeckner and Krug’s idiosyncratic partnership. Sometimes it’s best to enjoy Apologies to the Queen Mary as moments: the first time the chorus kicks in on “We Built Another World”, providing a serene breathing space after Krug’s anxious “I had a bad, bad time tonight”; the waltz lapses of “Same Ghost Every Night”; Krug bellowing “It’s in God’s hands / But God doesn’t always have the best goddamn plans, does he?” in “Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”; the wild-eyed romanticism Krug brings to “I’ll Believe in Anything”; the synths that attack like a swarm of killer bees at the beginning of “Fancy Claps”; the way Boeckner makes the cliche “It’s getting better all the time” in “This Heart’s On Fire” into a heartfelt statement. This list could get very long.
In PopMatters’ 2005 review of Apologies to the Queen Mary, Liam Colle concludes with the statement, “Wolf Parade’s music might actually matter to some people”. Today, with a reunion tour and the promise of new Wolf Parade material on the horizon, it still matters. Recreating the magic of something like Apologies to the Queen Mary is no easy feat, yet it shines as a stunning example for those who might want to make music matter again.