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Every month, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Wolf Parade’s Cry Cry Cry.
Wolf Parade never seemed built to last. Their songs always seemed combustible; the best ones barely stay together (“I’ll Believe In Anything” doesn’t end as much as have a death rattle). They were a band Frankenstein-ed together from shards of other bands, and were often distracted with a myriad of other projects (listing them here would make this a Wikipedia page, but long live Sunset Rubdown) even when Wolf Parade were arguably the biggest Canadian band not named Arcade Fire. The point is is that them going on hiatus these last seven years, not releasing a new album—with the exception of last year’s EP 4—since 2010’s underrated Expo 86 kind of seemed inevitable. If any band from peak indie was going to kind of fade out into nothing for a couple years, and then lowkey come back, it was going to be them.
They pick up on Cry Cry Cry, LP four, basically exactly where they left off. The organs are still high in the mix. Dan Boeckner brings the songs that sound like demented Springsteen ballads; like instead of writing songs about towns with water towers he got stoned on his way there and ended up in an alley with a 40. Spencer Krug brings the bug-eyed songs that sound like sermons from Thanos, that swirl like Van Gogh paintings and crackle with the energy of a nuclear meltdown. If there’s a marked difference between Cry Cry Cry and Expo 86 and At Mount Zoomer, it’s that the stretched-out guitar explorations—Wolf Parade are an underrated guitar band—are gone, and in their place, nervous songwriting from both lead singers that emphasizes feeling out of place and feeling out of time.
Cry Cry Cry opens with its best track, “Lazarus Online,” a winding, building song from Krug that has some of his strongest songwriting yet. Centered around a refrain that goes, “All right, let’s fight, let’s rage against the night,” the song is about refusing to lie down and die despite a feeling of everything being lost. “If we’re all going to die, If we’re all going to fall like autumn leaves into the ultimate season, you’d rather miss him while you’re still alive,” Krug sings over a song that piles more pieces on, like it’s a musical representation of the album cover. Krug’s songs are generally this set’s strongest beyond “Lazarus Online”; “Am I An Alien Here” is virtually the thesis for the album itself, and Wolf Parade’s place in music in 2017, a much different world than 2005, or even 2010. And he even gets Sunset Rubdown-weird on album closer “King Of Piss And Paper.”
Boeckner’s songs are the glue that keeps the album together. “You’re Dreaming” ties to Krug’s work here, in its message about opening your eyes and seeing reality for what it is, while “Weaponized” talks about how you actions and thoughts can get away from you and turned into weapons. “Artificial Life” is his highlight, a song about how creature comforts of modern life leave everyone with a life that feels less than fulfilling. Like I said, like a weirdo Springsteen that guy is.
The tension that seemed to drive Wolf Parade in the beginning—there were rumors of discontent between all members, but Boeckner and Krug principally—and which ultimately led to them putting the band on ice during Obama’s first term is mostly gone from Cry Cry Cry. This feels more democratic than any Wolf Parade album before it. Wolf Parade represents an opportunity for these guys to come together and continue to try to make the best music of their careers.
You can stream the album via NPR here.
Header photo by Shane McCauley.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.