After the tenuous toe dipping of their eponymous surprise release in 2016, EP4, Wolf Parade dive right back into the pool with the release of their fully fledged comeback album, of sorts, Cry Cry Cry. It comes a full seven years after 2010’s Expo 86, a well-received album which seemed to close the book on a short but prolific career which saw them produce three albums in five years. Following this, the members went on to work on oft-cited other projects, with Spencer Krug embarking on a musical odyssey, amassing such a voluminous catalogue of music that it was hard to keep track of where he was and what he was doing. The other main songwriter Dan Boeckner did the same, albeit on a much smaller scale preferring to focus on a few projects, most notably Handsome Furs.
Wolf Parade exploded onto the Canadian music scene in 2005, a time when the domestic scene itself was starting to consume the indie music world. Spear-headed by bands such as Broken Social Scene, Stars & The Arcade Fire, it was a “Golden Age” for propulsive, guitar and synth driven indie goodness. Some bands went on to greater success and some just bubbled under the surface like Wolf Parade. Their first album Apologies to the Queen Mary, produced by Modest Mouse himself Isaac Brock, was the perfect mix of rock, proggy synth, vocal histrionics and vaudevillian piano flourishes. It sounded fresh, rough around the edges and rocked.
Cry Cry Cry‘sOpening track ‘Lazurus Online’ recalls one of their earlier tracks, ‘Modern World’, I’m not sure if it’s a mistake or a masterstroke but it serves to put you right back into Wolf Parade’s world. The opening line “Lazarus online, I received your message, you’re a fan of mine, your name’s Rebecca and you’ve decided not to die” encapsulates Wolf Parade’s ability to pair hard-hitting lyrics with upbeat and sometimes even downright jaunty musical arrangements. The song builds with each passing verse but never really gets out of 2nd gear.
‘You’re Dreaming’ and ‘Valley Boy’ are grander theatrical statements with the latter seeing Krug lamenting the state of the world to the recently departed Leonard Cohen with lines such as “the radio’s been playing all your songs, talking about the way you slipped away up the stairs, did you know that it was all gonna go wrong?”. The rest of the song makes more allusions to Leonard Cohen but it’s done as an homage rather than a pastiche. All of these things comes together to create one of the standout tracks on the album.
It used to be that you could easily identify a Krug-penned tune from a Boeckner one, with Krug tunes displaying more vocal elasticity and being built on distinctive piano or keys. But this time around, it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. Even their voices on this record are virtually indistinguishable. This helps to make the album flow more, gives it more continuity, but it dilutes the two opposing forces somewhat, the yin and yang of previous releases. The push and pull, the unpredictability.
Throughout this album there are flashes of brilliance and instances of Wolf Parade playing it safe. The former frequently outweighs the latter, though this is something which they will have to address on subsequent releases. Wolf Parade are back which is great and they haven’t changed much (also great) but it’s what holds this album back a little bit. If Cry Cry Cry had come out in 2005 it would have been rapturously received. But here in 2017 we need a little bit more. Still, it’s good to have them back.