Cry Cry Cry
Sub Pop · October 6, 2017
That sound made them indie gods for a short time with their celebrated debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, and most fans will agree that they’ve spent the rest of their career trying, but not quite managing to reach that album’s great heights again. Where Apologies tread a delicate balance between raw fury and uptight rigidity, their next two albums were mostly one or the other, and felt a bit monotonous as a result. Now, however, after a long hiatus, they have returned with Cry Cry Cry, one of the most cohesive, well balanced, and enjoyable records of their career.
As the title might suggest, Boeckner and Krug are not writing from a very happy place, and the resultant set of songs is an unrelenting compendium of 21st century anxieties. They cover just about all the bases: post-election confusion, feeling controlled by screens, the wealth gap (“They’re getting fat / They feed us trash”), social alienation in a fractured world (“Am I an alien here? / Here in the cave of my skull”), losing the past to the crush of progress, and pretty much everything else keeping you up at night this year. But despite the grim subject matter, the music is often euphoric. ‘You’re Dreaming’ is probably the best Wolf Parade single since ‘I’ll Believe in Anything,’ riding a propulsive keyboard riff into a world of “shattered glass” and “systems in collapse” at breakneck speed. The billowing synths and groovy guitar stabs of ‘Am I an Alien Here’ turn a crisis of confidence into something anthemic, and the raucous jam at the end of highlight ‘Baby Blue’ is a treat not to be missed.
Wolf Parade does indeed have two frontmen, and since the comparisons between them are inevitable: Yes, they write different songs; yes, they write those songs differently; and no, I do not have one that I prefer over the other. The push and pull between their songwriting styles has always been a source of energy and excitement in their albums, and they both serve different functions for the work as a whole. Krug, for his part, writes with an electric, nervous energy. His songs are more unpredictable than Boeckner’s, his lyrics more unlikely, his trembling, yowling tenor splattering itself across the music with abandon. Boeckner, on the other hand, writes creeping, sunburnt grooves of impeccable craftsmanship, full of resigned dread and dark proclamations. Krug is the dreamer and Boeckner the pragmatist, the former rattling off the symptoms and the latter giving the grim diagnosis. And while Krug writes some of the most interesting material on Cry Cry Cry, Boeckner’s unerring command of hip-shaking rhythm provides the highest peaks on the album, from the aforementioned ‘You’re Dreaming’ to the ecstatic crescendo at the close of ‘Flies on the Sun.’
The problem with Wolf Parade being more interesting than they appear is that they really don’t appear to be that interesting at first. It took me a few listens to really appreciate what I was hearing, and even after that there are still a few songs, like ‘Incantation,’ and ‘Weaponized’ that I just don’t find all that compelling. Weaker cuts like these are not bad so much as they are unmemorable. Their melodies and arrangements are pleasant in the moment, but I’d be hard pressed to recall so much as a rhyming couplet from either one. The production can be frustrating, too; the album is recorded with glassy, dead-eyed precision that, on the one hand, makes for a fascinating contrast with the album’s themes, but on the other, makes some of the material superbly forgettable.
All that being said, Cry Cry Cry is a solid addition to the Wolf Parade canon. I’d rather not hold everything they do up to the standard of their debut, so I won’t make the comparison any more than I already have. Instead, I’ll just say that on its own merits, Cry Cry Cry is very enjoyable, a fun, sprightly collection of songs about tense, weighty issues. Not bad, eh?