Wolf Parade Mk. 2 seems more assured and more confident.
Wolf Parade shouldn’t have lasted for as long as they did. On the surface, the earth-bound rock aspirations of Dan Boeckner should not have sat well alongside the cosmic ramblings of Spencer Krug. Yet it all formed something cohesive and brilliant in the form of Apologies to the Queen Mary, which still stands as one of the finest debut albums of its time. But that conflict soon reared its head on the follow-up albums, so much so that absolutely no one was surprised when the band called it quits in 2010. However, the pull of aughts nostalgia seems too alluring to resist nowadays, though Wolf Parade’s return thankfully came without the hagiographic PR blitz of, say, the LCD Soundsystem reunion. That unassuming nature has translated over to the band’s new music, to an extent. Cry Cry Cry doesn’t celebrate past glories or try desperately to justify its own existence with a bold new musical direction; it’s simply Wolf Parade getting back to the business of being Wolf Parade.
Part of what made Wolf Parade such a thrilling listen initially was that core contrast in styles, the A/B songwriter format of each album pulling the listener in a multitude of directions. Cry Cry Cry is no different, as it begins with a moody, verbose Krug song (“Lazarus Online”) and a fast-paced Boeckner rocker (“You’re Dreaming”). Indeed, this album is very much in the vein of what we’ve come to expect from Wolf Parade as a band. What’s different, though, is their perspective. The band used to weave fractious drama out of their internal struggles and fears, but their gaze on Cry Cry Cry is turned to external forces. It makes sense, given how our world is increasingly resembling a bizarre, disturbing cartoon these days, but credit to Wolf Parade for resisting the urge to navel-gaze during trying times.
Throughout Cry Cry Cry, Wolf Parade seem to be wondering about their place in a world that seems almost unrecognizable. “Lazarus Online” moodily portrays an online world where no one is who they seem and where the dead can come back to digital life. “Valley Boy” finds Krug lamenting the loss of Leonard Cohen while wondering aloud if Cohen knowingly left us before the world went all to hell. The album’s two centerpiece jams, “Baby Blue” and “Weaponized,” each find their author lashing out in the ways we’ve grown to expect from them. The former is a slow-build from Krug, full of hallucinogenic imagery and a climax that just edges pure musical chaos. The latter is a wiry rocker that evolves into different forms and permutations, an example of Boeckner fully realizing his classic rocker dreams.
At times, Cry Cry Cry can feel a bit underwhelming. It certainly doesn’t have the explosive unpredictability that Queen Mary had years ago. But there’s something to be said about the album’s consistency, especially given the years that they spent apart. Having struggled to define themselves in their first iteration, Wolf Parade Mk. 2 seems more assured and more confident. Chalk it up to maturity or a growing comfort in their own skin, but whatever the reason, it’s great to have such a unique combination of talents making music again.