Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner are determined to leave their mark on the world. It may have been a few years since the first Wolf Parade album, but that’s certainly not due to laziness on their part. It’s amazing that they even find time for Wolf Parade in among their busy schedules with Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs, but here they are with album number two, the sweetly melodic At Mount Zoomer.
Like many albums written separately by two distinctive songwriters (see Spacemen 3’s Recurring for an excellent example of this), At Mount Zoomer is a collection of songs that don’t slot together seamlessly. It’s as if Krug and Boeckner have gathered the fragments of their lives that didn’t fit into Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs and attempted to fit a few square pegs into round holes. This would be problematic for lesser acts, but for Wolf Parade it’s all part of the appeal.
The album begins with a Boeckner track, “Soldier’s Grin.” Some jarring electronics give way to sunny melodies and contemplative lyrics, closing with the oblique refrain: “What you know can only mean one thing.” Boeckner’s vocals are buried in the mix on the opening song, and Krug repeats the trick on second song, “Call It a Ritual,” causing the words and music to mesh into a hazy whole.
Like “Call It a Ritual,” third track “Language City” is a piano-led stomper that occasionally gets interrupted by saccharine synth sounds and stripped-down passages that give Boeckner’s vocals a rare gasp of air. The song even resembles the ebullient pop of OMD’s “Enola Gay” as it builds to a spirited climax. It’s on moments like these that the band reaches its peak, with well-crafted, slow-burning songs that reel us in with hook-laden melodies and thoughtful lyrics.
Toward the end of the album, Krug and Boeckner lose focus with sprawling tracks such as “Fine Young Cannibals” (presumably a tribute to this and not this) and the 10-minute epic “Kissing the Beehive.” The instrumental passages in both tracks lack the sonic invention needed to take the record somewhere interesting, and may you may find yourself craving the concise and carefully conceived guitar pop of the album’s earlier tracks.
There’s not much here that will surprise longtime fans of Krug and Boeckner’s work, although they have slowly turned the wheel and moved the Wolf Parade sound on from Apologies to the Queen Mary. Where they take the band next will hopefully mirror the condensed bursts of “The Grey Estates” and “Call It A Ritual” rather than the meandering later passages of At Mount Zoomer.