Canadian band Wolf Parade has a knack for reminding the old souls of what they miss about vintage music. Just as David Bowie and Peter Gabriel are wont to do, Wolf Parade puts the classic next to the strange. The result this time around is Expo 86, an audio smorgasbord of shredding guitars and electronic, sometimes spacey, tinkering. “Cloud Shadow on the Mountain” blasts open the album with a raucous rhythm and Talking Heads-like sing-speak. And like the Talking Heads, Wolf Parade mix dark with whimsical, as found in “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way).” Its synthesized layers and anguished tone sounds like an urge to dance and a warning all at once.
Each of the 11 tracks rages in a rock and roll sense, yet maintains a foreboding danceable quality (in a tragic yet glamorous ’70s dance club sort of way). Moody instrumentation throughout brews a storm underneath the dignified and sometimes eerily stoic voice of Dan Boeckner. Either way, his arresting tone demands attention.
Though the record bears an element of danger, hidden in the folds are pretty little synth melodies that cut through the static of buzzing guitars and blasting percussion like the key-driven “Ghost Pressure” in which Boeckner implores, “Little vision, come shake me up, shake me up. Though songs are on the lengthy side (around five minutes), they don’t drag, and there is enough powerful bass and drums to complement electronic noise.
“Yulia” is the most unadulterated rock song on the album, with a solid rhythmic spine that starts off emphatic and closes softly, unlike the fast pace set by closing track “Cave-O-Sapien.” The exact appeal of any Wolf Parade album is difficult to discern, but it may have something to do with an equally strong understanding of both classic instrumentation and a synthesizer.