Wolf Parade At Mount Zoomer

[Sub Pop; 2008]

Styles: watercolor synth-rock
Others: Phew, let’s see: Handsome Furs, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, Destroyer, Modest Mouse

Slapped together as it was from scraps of recently released EPs, Apologies to the Queen Mary, to me, never made sense as a unified artistic statement. Rather, it delivered something more important to the bloggers: instant gratification. The tracks didn’t meld together, but a few of them were so individually moving it was impossible not to at least bat an eyelash, circa a rich man’s Arcade Fire debut, if you will. A hype avalanche, fame-by-association (links to Isaac Brock, Dan Bejar, Carey Mercer), and timely tours coupling them with highwater acts didn’t hurt either.

Wolf Parade principals Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug have indulged in a few side projects since Apologies, but they never let the idea of an At-One-With-Itself full length escape their scope of vision either, as At Mount Zoomer makes so abundantly clear. It’s so tied-together and strong start-to-finish I can’t help but wonder what Apologies would sound like stripped of all the EP already-heards.

The most striking aspect of Zoom-Zoom-Zoomer is the full-on embrace of Pacific Northwest rock (and classic indie-rock in general circa Pixies). Hearkening back to the prime indie recordings of their northern neighbors, Wolf Parade put on their lazer-synth show like always, but the flesh-and-bones of the matter is quite Modest Mouse-/Built To Spill-ish. Pundits have always claimed this to be the case, but Mount Zoomer takes less care to hide the proclivity, doing little to disguise the touchstones lodged in tracks like “Fine Young Cannibals” and “The Grey Estates,” both of which harbor more than a passing resemblance to selections from BTS’ most-recent record, You in Reverse (dipping into the aforementioned indie collection plate further, the latter also recycles the riff from “Wave of Mutilation”).

Back to the lazer-synth show; as I mentioned, it’s still on, and it’s not going anywhere, despite some gloriously ripping instances of guitarism that didn’t show up as much before. I’ve consistently said that synth innovations alone are a MAJOR factor in which artists get plucked from the crowd and which don’t (from relative newbies like No Age, M83, The Unicorns, and Manitoba/Caribou to older hats like The Locust and Scott Walker’s recent incarnation), and I can’t think of a rock band that has used synths more effectively than Wolf Parade. Apologies had more all-out barrages of layered keys; Mount Zoomer flips the script by focusing its energy on balancing each instrument so you never forget about the backbone of drums, guitar, bass.

This trend is most evident within the inspiring crescendos of closer “Kissing the Beehive” (after which the album was originally to be named), a seemingly never-ending heatwave of dynamic instrumental interplay, loud-quiet, and synths that merge-merge-merge rather than surge-surge-surge. It’s the song/statement Wolf Parade might not have had room for had they not possessed the discipline to whittle Zoomer down to nine tracks. It’s breathtaking, it’s assured, it’s a perfect finale, it LIVES UP TO THE HYPE. Thank Christ someone does.

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