Wolf Parade’s greatest asset is the ability to appear on the verge of falling apart while marching ahead with lockstep precision. The Canadian indie-rock outfit’s third album, Expo 86, begins in the middle of a pounding drum lick that’s quickly joined by Spencer Krug’s quivering vocal, a zig-zagging guitar, a bloopy synth doodle, and a pulverizing bassline. Then things really get ramshackle on the opening track, “Cloud Shadow On The Mountain,” but not at the expense of the song’s twitchingly brisk forward velocity. The track sets the tone for an album that thankfully leaves Wolf Parade’s lackadaisical 2008 effort At Mount Zoomer on the couch for a long nap.
Wolf Parade as a band similarly appeared on the verge of falling apart in recent years, as Krug created more exciting music in other bands, most notably Sunset Rubdown on last year’s masterful Dragonslayer. But Expo 86 not only finds Wolf Parade re-discovering the manic energy of 2005’s Apologies To The Queen Mary, it’s also an album made by arguably a more complete band. Krug’s show-offy pop-prog suites continue to dazzle, but co-band leader Dan Boeckner matches him at nearly every turn, weaving mile-wide guitar solos in and out of huge-sounding anthems like “Little Golden Age” and the shivering “Palm Road.” It’s a testament to how well Krug and Boeckner feed off each other that it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s in charge on each track. Krug’s “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)” is the album’s best guitar song, while Boeckner’s “Pobody’s Nerfect” is a winding, climactic mini-epic worthy of the best of Dragonslayer. It might be difficult to expect such restlessly creative musicmakers to sit still for long, but Expo 86 shows that Wolf Parade could be a place worth settling in for a while.