Wolf Parade has always been a fascinating band.
When the group started a dozen years ago, it was like listening to David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen writing an album together on the masterpiece debut, “Apologies to the Queen Mary.” Songs like “Modern World,” “Grounds for Divorce” and the breathtakingly essential “I’ll Believe in Anything” were lodged into the hearts of teenagers who are now 30-somethings and can’t find anything as vital.
Since that debut, the band released follow-ups that were OK, then the members dissolved into numerous side projects like Handsome Furs, Divine Fits and Sunset Rubdown. All of those other bands had their moments, but none matched that exciting balance that its leaders Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug had with Wolf Parade.
Coming off an extended hiatus, Wolf Parade is back with “Cry Cry Cry,” and the group finally sounds comfortable with itself. But, just like a lot of indie rock bands from a decade or so ago, the band is uncomfortable with the world.
While Krug (the Bowie-like poet of the group) continues to reach for mythology and metaphor, Boeckner (the Springsteen-esque dude) is still writing heart-on-his-sleeves rock songs. The balance of baroque and barroom is key to Wolf Parade's sound, and the band has never sounded tighter than it does on "Cry Cry Cry."
The album's content is bleak, with songs about death ("Lazarus Online"), Leonard Cohen's death ("Valley Boy"), how life is a dream ("You're Dreaming"), David Bowie's death ("Am I an Alien Here"), and how the president might reign death on the planet ("King of Piss and Paper").
Unlike other storied bands of that last indie rock boom (Arcade Fire, Bloc Party, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah), Wolf Parade hasn't gone into this meta commentary that pervades "smart" rock music. The group has always been its stubborn, weird rock self.
Will the band ever make another "Apologies to the Queen Mary"? No, but on "Cry Cry Cry," Wolf Parade sounds just as vital and fascinating as it once did.