In 2005, Canadian quartet Wolf Parade released its debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary, a virtually flawless collection of songs where opposing styles created a whole even greater than the sum of its wonderful parts. Over the course of its next two albums, 2008’s At Mount Zoomer and 2010’s Expo ’86, Wolf Parade continued exploring a signature sound fashioned from the best aspects of prog, art rock, and American indie, and shot through with scads of off-the-wall synthesizers. It may look strange on paper, but the results sounded shockingly cohesive. Some would likely argue that Wolf Parade’s formula peaked with At Mount Zoomer, but those who do should take note because Wolf Parade’s latest, Cry Cry Cry sees the band back at what it does best at a time when we need it most.
Lyrically, past Wolf Parade releases have expressed a dissatisfaction with modern society. The band’s dexterity with this sort of subject matter makes co-frontmen Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug welcome commentators on current events. In a 2016 interview with PopMatters, the metaphorically-minded Krug mentioned an interest in and aspiration toward straightforward, politcally-driven lyrics. Although Krug’s lyrics are still very much his exhilarating and unpredictable own, it’s not difficult to guess which figure in power is being referred to on Cry Cry Cry closer “King of Piss and Paper”. The same goes for single “Valley Boy”, with its overt Leonard Cohen references. When one artist references another in song, the outcome can sometimes feel trite, but “Valley Boy”, with its Television-esque guitars and nervy vocals, steers clear of being a sentimental homage yet still retains a touching sincerity.
But this is not just Krug’s show, and Boeckner fronts a handful songs as powerful as any on …Queen Mary or At Mount Zoomer. “You’re Dreaming” is an early album standout with a powerful shout along chorus, “Flies on the Sun” is Modest Mouse-y without sounding like a throwback, and “Artificial Life” is a storming wake up call to the ways we are being played by those in power. Boeckner and Krug are both passionate singers, and their final statements on Cry Cry Cry — the aforementioned “Artificial Life” and “King of Piss and Paper” — sound like warnings sung by two men being dragged to the gallows.
Some heavy lyrical content aside, Cry Cry Cry is perhaps Wolf Parade’s most accessible release to date. The back to back garage-prog of “Baby Blue” and “Weaponized” may be its thorniest cuts, but qualities like the frantic farfisa-esque synths on the former and the pounding title refrain on the latter become more and more inviting with each listen. The interplay may not be quite as apparent as At Mount Zoomer‘s epic prog-indebted outro “Kissing the Beehive”, but the band’s maturity doesn’t soften Cry Cry Cry‘s many thrills. Cry Cry Cry can’t change the issues it speaks of on its own, but its energy is more than enough to mobilize those who listen.