It’s been more than seven years since Wolf Parade released Expo 86 and abruptly announced their indefinite hiatus. In that time, a lot has changed for both the members in the band and the music industry in general. New musical babies—and human babies—were born to Spencer Krug, Dan Boeckner, Dante DeCaro and Arlen Thompson, while the musical landscape shifted away from guitar rock and toward sounds created by computers. The members moved all over the globe, but eventually migrated back to their home of Vancouver Island and decided to give this Wolf Parade thing another shot.
After a discussion of why the band didn’t work out the first time and what would need to happen for it to work again, followed by what Thompson calls a “really bad” jam session, the chemistry that bonded the four-piece together in their early 20s connected them once again, nearly 15 years later. With newfound perspective and seven years of experience and maturity under their belts, the men of Wolf Parade set out to remind listeners that guitar rock does still exist, and it’s just as cool as that bleepy, bloopy stuff.
With John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney) manning the soundboard, the band set out to trim the fat that made albums like Expo 86 and At Mount Zoomer dense, proggy affairs. Editing songs before going into the studio (something the band wasn’t used to doing) and including only what each song needed sonically and nothing more makes Cry Cry Cry the most concise effort the quartet has produced. (Yes, “Baby Blue” and “Weaponized” both clock in at over six minutes, but it wouldn’t be a proper Wolf Parade album without a couple of epic jam tracks.)
Another first for the band is this album’s apparent political message. Songs like the power-pop anthem “You’re Dreaming,” buoyant, keyboard-driven “Artificial Life” and dramatic closer “King of Piss and Paper” make clear what these Canadians thought about the 2016 U.S. election. Even their ode to the late Leonard Cohen, “Valley Boy,” is armed with lines like, “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? / Did you know that it would all be more than you could bear?”
Though the subject matter is macabre (and how could it not be? Most of it was written in December 2016), the music most closely mirrors Wolf Parade’s standout debut, 2005’s Apologies to the Queen Mary. Krug’s keys joyously bounce from one song to the next, while Boeckner’s guitar spasms between rigged power chords and wailing blues riffs. Hell, they even include horns (“Baby Blue”) and woodwinds (“King of Piss and Paper”) to the mix, adding yet another first to this endeavor.
That seven-year break might have been just what Wolf Parade needed to regroup and come back even stronger than before, and Cry Cry Cry shows that guitar rock is far from dead.