wolf parade @ black cat

posted by tom / April 13, 2006 /

All due respect to DCeiver — who, in addition to being America's greatest living playwright is also an insightful rock critic — but the Wolf Parade doubters are dead wrong. I'll admit I'm biased: in the midst of the dark days of fall '05 I'd put on Apologies To The Queen Mary during my daily escape from Crystal City, and feel myself begin to thaw. It was the soundtrack of feeling returning. So I'm inclined to cut them a lot of slack.

But that wasn't necessary tonight. They played a beautifully loose, powerful, and faithful-but-not-slavish set. If these guys come to your town, go see them. I don't really have much more to say than that.

That is, unless we're talking about the opening act, the optimistically-named Holy Fuck. I don't really mean to pick on them — they weren't unique in their sound or level of suckiness. It's just that I've finally hit my breaking point for this kind of shit: I am officially done tolerating bands who spend their live shows trying to replicate the work of a sampler. "Hey!" they say to themselves, "We've got six people up on stage and at our disposal. Surely that's enough to authentically recreate the experience of listening to a 14 year-old learn how to use GarageBand."

To which I reply: you're right. It is. But why would you want to do that? I know, I know: my middlebrow, bourgeois notions of things like "song structure" bore avante gardists such as yourself. You're deconstructing pop music, man. Barbershop is in danger of growing stale. You're taking it to strange new places.

Except that after you spend all that time deconstructing it, the only part you bother to put back together is the three chord progression — and maybe, maybe a hook-y riff. Then you proceed through variations on that underlying structure for 6 or 7 minutes per song.

I have bad news for you. There's a word for people in this line of work: it's "jam band". Your audience might take different drugs than the Disco Biscuits' key demo, but the principle is the same. The only real difference is that jam band musicians can play their instruments. Rather than developing chops, you spent your time figuring out how to look musically ardent while tapping a MIDI controller trigger extra-fast, or waving your hands around a theremin, or, as in tonight's particulary ludicrous case, manually threading film stock through a device that presumably was supposed to read its audio track, but in practice seemed to have no effect on the speakers' output at all. So when it's your turn to solo, you generally rise to the challenge by playing your instrument slightly louder or faster or more frenetically. It's simply not that interesting.

So there it is. You have better facial hair, but otherwise you're just a shitty jam band. And when you consider that jam bands are really just shitty jazz bands, your case starts to look pretty weak. So c'mon — humor me. Sink to my level. Write a goddamn verse, chorus and bridge, then play them in less than five minutes. Then draw a crowd. I dare you.


i've said it time and again, but i still urge the wolf parade haters to give the cd another chance. that album is probably my favorite of this year. and when one of the internet's biggest bloggers professes her WP love, you know it's time to hop on the bandwagon.

Posted by: catherine on April 13, 2006 09:48 AM

Last night's show was good, but I admit to skipping around the album a lot, and I don't listen to it much any more. I don't really know what the case against WP is all about, but I think that album might be better reshuffled or reproduced or something (and minus "You Are a Runner").

I nearly left during Holy Fuck. Should have at least gone downstairs.

Posted by: Kriston on April 13, 2006 12:54 PM

Hmm. See, I like "You Are A Runner". Actually, the only song on the album that I don't really care for is "Dinner Bell", which bores me silly.

Posted by: tom on April 13, 2006 12:55 PM

(plus, you know, I feel like TMBG pretty much owns the dinner bell song genre)

Posted by: tom on April 13, 2006 12:56 PM

Yeah, I don't care for that one either.

Posted by: Kriston on April 13, 2006 01:01 PM

Well, I don't have to tell you where I stand on all of this nonsense. They might be an ok band, but they're certainly not worth the slavish devotion and the Pitchfork coronation which can only mean one thing: in a few months, no one will care about this band. And we'll be totally excited about bands named after molecular compounds or lesser known historical figures and be totally over bands with animal names. If people wouldn't run around clamoring for the next big thing all the time, then maybe some of these bands would actually earn their chops before being deemed the best new band of 2006. Remember when a band has put out a few albums and an EP before anybody had even heard of it? Or at least done some substantial touring in little hole in the wall venues for $5 or less before getting to headline anything? Those were the days, my friend.

Posted by: genevieve on April 13, 2006 03:45 PM

I can understand the resistance to hype, but I think these guys are worth an exception. They did put out a few EPs prior to this album, fwiw (but they weren't very good).

Posted by: tom on April 13, 2006 04:39 PM

I think they also happen to be one of the more intersting bands structurally and harmonically. They use different time signatures, sometimes in a single song (see "I'll Believe in Anything") and chord structures not based on I, IV, and V chords from inhereted from the blues tradition. What impresses me is that they do use these elements subtly enough that one could miss it.

Posted by: Charles on April 13, 2006 04:46 PM

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