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To put this into perspective: this is the Montreal band's third album since 2005's debut effort, the emotionally charged and lyrically abstruse Apologies to the Queen Mary. In that time, Boeckner has issued two albums under the Handsome Furs moniker–a side-project he has with his wife Alexei Perry–while Krug has released three albums for his side-project Sunset Rubdown, as well as being heavily involved in indie supergroup Swan Lake, who have brought out two albums in that time. The other two members, former Hot Hot Heat guitarist/songwriter Dante DeCaro and drummer Arlen Thompson, also have other creative outlets.
With so much else going on, you could be forgiven for thinking that Wolf Parade might be somewhat lacking in cohesion and focus. Yet the band has always thrived from that sense of discombobulation and the two distinctive yet similar mindsets of its co-frontmen, and Expo 86 is no exception. It begins with the Krug-led Cloud Shadow on the Mountain, an agitated rumination on a life that won't be ("You'll never be born as a scorpion," ruminates Krug in a near spoken-word trance), but, really, whose song is whose is irrelevant. They blend and merge together, 11 songs of dysfunction and disorder that, through fuzzy guitars and neat electronic touches, forge a sense of musical unity and emotional/psychological paranoia.
Yet these are as much catchy pop songs as they are off-kilter indie songs–Little Golden Age bristles with late night, end-of-the-world inspiration, Ghost Pressure is a paranormal exploration of inner emptiness, and Oh You, Old Thing is a tender tribute to Montreal. This is a typically odd, zany album, but that's precisely what makes it so good–because Wolf Parade's twisted, crazy, surreal world becomes yours, and it feels both absolutely normal and absolutely right.--Mischa Pearlman
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