On “Fallen,” the scorching opener to Franz Ferdinand’s second album, You Could Have It So Much Better, singer Alex Kapranos declares, “So they say you’re trouble boy/ Because you like to destroy/ Things that bring idiots joy/ Well what’s wrong with a little destruction?” Kapranos must be talking about purposely ripping the lining of his Burberry trench because the music carries on with the same delightful cocky hipster punk-pop of last year’s awesome self-titled debut. There’s nothing that new here, just giving the idiots… err, people what they want.
The new single “Do You Want To” is this year’s “Take Me Out.” It’s a catchy little number with an interesting and nonchalant bi/homo/anal/oral thing going on. It starts off with Beatlesque guitars and chorus and in breakneck speed becomes a musical hard-on full of joyous, naughty and taunting remarks. Punchy guitars pounce upon Kapranos’s mod come-ons. “Do you want to go where I’d never let you before…. Do you want a go off what I’d never let you before.” It’s all so very horny. Seconds later Kapranos slam-dunks this amusing antidote: “Your famous friend/ Well, I blew him before you.”
“Evil And A Heathen” is a two-minute firecracker with sinister electronic sounds chewing on the vivid boyish drumming of Paul Thomson and the mischievous unbridled guitars (Kapranos and Nick McCarthy) and bass (Bob Hardy).
The band sounds great throughout. They have an unstoppable cool factor with their catchy, stylish “Thin White Duke” danceable rockers. Coproducer Rich Costey (Mars Volta) was brought in to help make the band sound fuller and looser this time out. The fashionably rebellious songs flow into each other perfectly.
The boys have also taken a stab at a few ballads. “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” is my favourite song on the album. It (and “Fade Together”) adds some much needed dimension and heart to the band’s hardy formula. It’s a glimpse of where they could be headed (good or bad). The song has Kapranos singing about his girlfriend (Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger). The melody is reminiscent of the sweeping ballads on Blur’s Great Escape album with a touch of Friedberger in the childlike wordplay and song structure. It’s mostly peppy/pretty piano accompanying Kapranos’s neat expressive vocal. He sings, “So Eleanor take a Green Point three point/ Turn toward the hidden sun/ You know you are so elegant when you run.” The song proves without a doubt there is nothing wrong with a little creative deconstruction.
Montreal-based Wolf Parade is being described as the next Arcade Fire or Modest Mouse. The description is apt. They may not be ripping off either but at first listen it’s impossible not to erase those two bands from your head (especially Arcade Fire). It also doesn’t help that their debut album, Apologies To The Queen Mary, is coproduced by Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock.
The quartet consists of Hadji Bakara (keyboard, electronics), Arlen Thompson (drums) and the Lennon and McCartney of the band, Dan Boeckner (songwriter, guitar, vocals) and Spencer Krug (songwriter, keyboards, piano, vocals). Boeckner and Krug (has a lovely ring to it) have written six tracks each; Boeckner’s are more hard-edged while Krug’s are quirkier.
Krug’s voice, well, you’ll either love or hate its creepy high-pitched warble (think Crispin Glover meets Gary Numan). On “Grounds For Divorce” Krug examines human relationships in the urban landscape. It’s a playful tune with eccentric electric sounds zipping and diving through the chunky drums and sporadic guitars. It’s genius. The semi-abstract lyrics ring true. “You said you hate the sound/ Of the buses on the ground/ You said you hate the way they scrape their bricks all over town/ Said pretend it’s whales/ Keeping their voices down.”
Boeckner follows with similar imagery but his voice is slightly more calming and not as intense as Krug’s. Boeckner’s songs have a fuller, more straightforward sound but the arrangements and lyrical content are just as imaginative. “At the party we got chained to the wrists/ Outside there’s girls saying falling bricks.”
On the first few listens, Apologies To The Queen Mary is an obscure and challenging release. But it slowly becomes something quite extraordinarily relatable. When all the inventive musical elements and words hit you, the album becomes a very special thing. It gets what it’s like to be human. As Boeckner sings on the closer, “This Heart’s On Fire,” “Sometimes we rock and roll/ Sometimes we stay at home and it’s just fine.”