Opening track, “Soldier’s Grin” begins with glowering keys that lift into the empty air like druggy fumes from some unseen lesions in a city street’s muggy blacktop, hinting at a surreal underbelly yet to be uncovered. By the time Dan Boeckner’s warble-voiced ruminations kick in with, “In my head there’s a city at night,” the listener is already zinging along, tumultuously roving the back alleys and tubeways of Wolf Parade’s aural cityscape. The choppy electric guitars pass and repeat like neon-glow storefronts buzzing by an open car window, Arlen Thompson’s percussion exploding like vapors propelled from gurgling steam vents.
“Call It A Ritual” oozes forth like a confidential report of dark deeds, all distant reverberating vocals and treasonous desires for destruction. The track ends with ambivalent non-reaction to its narrator’s internal evils as Boeckner recedes into the shadows chanting, “So, call it whatever you will.”
The album strikes forth with abandon, gathering castoff crumbs from old King Crimson albums and dusty hardbound lost noir fiction. The scatterbrain lyrics twist off into abstraction, chasing after punk rock femme fatales who’ve long since flittered out of view down shadowy streets drenched in primary color schemes and hard light from pawn shops and strip joints.
“California Dreamer” finds the band chasing radio ghosts through a Technicolor terrain of lapping tremolo guitar and sizzling ride cymbal, tumbling full-speed-ahead until their instruments begin to crackle at the joints and the arpeggiating synth lines flutter into oblivion.
While the moody “Fine Young Cannibals” sounds like the best kind of melancholy self-reproach, Wolf Parade’s defining moments surge out on the life-affirming, chase-down-a-rusty-fire-escape track “Bang Your Drum.” By the time the twisty-turny guitar and keyboard assault merges into the unified-front chorus, Boeckner’s command of “Take a dive” takes on the sound of an exiled zealot’s emphatic screams. The song then yields the band’s defining moment as guitars overtake the strangled, defiant yelp of, “Strike up the band / We have survived.”
Favorite Track: “Bang Your Drum”