Thursday, May 01, 2008

Capsule Review - At Mount Zoomer

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer

JTM Grade: 95%

At Mount Zoomer, awkward title aside, is officially a home run for Spencer, Dan and the gang. It may not pack the immediate punch to the gut as its predecessor, but the new material marks a substantial step forward in songwriting chops. I'm hard pressed to pick my favorite track so far. For now, I'll choose the hilariously titled "Fine Young Cannibals." In perfect symmetry, Dan takes the lead on four songs, Spencer has four and they both sing on the epic 10 minute+ finale, "Kissing the Beehive." All of the trademarks from their debut LP remain (i.e. Dan's swagger, Spencer's lyrical puzzles and snaky melodies), but they have slowed things down just a bit and given the production some breathing room. It's safe to say the whole thing is simply more grand in scope. Is it better than Queen Mary? I'm not willing to go that far quite yet, but maybe...

So I've been trying to figure out what distinguishes Wolf Parade from its members' various side projects, but primarily from Spencer Krug's Sunset Rubdown. You can't deny that Spencer's voice, songwriting and keyboards will always demand attention in any band he happens across. There's just no avoiding that influence. Even Apologies to the Queen Mary's best song 'I'll Believe In Anything' was itself a reworked version of a Sunset Rubdown track. So it should come as no surprise that most of Spencer's WP contributions on Mt. Zoomer are decidedly Rubdowny.

Then what is it that makes Wolf Parade so much damn better than the other projects? It isn't Dan Boeckner, and I don't intend that as a slight. The guy is fantastic on both albums and brings a punkish rock 'n roll presence to the fold. But that's not it. Nope, I think it's that 'gang' I mentioned earlier. Those other dudes behind Dan and Spencer on stage. The drum and bass. The rhythm. They're the actual parade. Their driving bass and propulsive, powerful drumming is what makes Wolf Parade a step above Sunset, Handsome Furs, Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, you name it. Compare the two versions of 'I'll Believe In Anything' and it'll be clear as day why Wolf Parade's is so much more affecting. I'd never even heard of their names before looking it up just now on Wikipedia. So I'm taking this occasion to recognize the two formerly anonymous members of Wolf Parade, Arlen Thompson and Dante DeCaro on drums and percussion. Hopefully, a forum with a tad more readership will give 'em some credit.


Anonymous said...

I agree; it's an awesome sophomore album.

Anonymous said...

Few corrections -

Arlen Thompson is the drummer for Wolf Parade - not Dante DeCaro (formerly of Hot Hot Heat). Thompson was also the producer for this record and housed the recording of it, which took place at his studio known as "Mount Zoomer."

Dante DeCaro mostly plays bass but is known to hit some chimes to add a little something extra - which I guess can be labeled as percussion.

I believe he plays guitar on a few songs has been a few years since I've seen the band live.

And please don't discount Hadji Bakara, who adds the ever so delightful sounds on synthesizer.

Otherwise a nice review. I agree, it is a satisfying sophomore effort.

JTM said...

Thanks for the corrections and extra details on Arlen, Dante and Hadji.

Jay Flyer said...

Satisfying like a Snickers... chimes are percussion.

To some extent... their brilliance on this ablum far exceeds AttQM.