"Expo 86." Wolf Parade. Montreal indie rockers Wolf Parade gained enormous critical acclaim with the release of 2005's "Apologies to the Queen Mary," a post-punk guitar rock masterwork that deftly meshed its artistic ambitions with solid pop smarts.
The band followed up with 2008's sprawling "At Mount Zoomer," a solid if somewhat messy sophomore effort that found the band embracing more of a '70s rock aesthetic. Reportedly, the recording sessions were an arduous process that put considerable strain on the band.
The group's newest album, "Expo 86," supposedly was a much looser process, though it's hard to tell that from listening to it. If anything, "Expo 86," with its long running time and with most of its songs hovering near the 5- to 6-minute mark, seems even more layered and spaced-out, to the point of sounding a bit like a jam band.
Luckily for the band, most of what the members come up with is pretty golden.
With songwriting duties split between the more traditional rock anthems of Dan Boeckner and the more esoteric, progressive leanings of Spencer Krug, the two collectively heave swashes of guitar theatrics and a battalion of jagged synths -- served with enough theatrical bombast for three albums' worth of material.
When all of these threads come together on tracks such as the jittery post-Pixies rocker "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain," or the blood-rushed power-pop "Little Golden Age" and "Ghost Pressure," the band scores big.
When it falters on occasion, it's largely due to the fact that with so much sonic overload, some songs get lost in the process.
Wolf Parade will always have the problem of audiences comparing their current work with the high promise of their seminal debut, as well as the fact its two frontmen have side projects (Krug's Sunset Rubdown, Boeckner's Handsome Furs) that increasingly house some of their best work.
But three albums in, Wolf Parade still seem bursting with creative ideas -- even when that proves to be too much of a good thing.