Rewind: Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary
[Originally posted on TIDAL Read]
With TIDAL Rewind, we blow the dust off an old album that’s begging to be heard again. Here we look back at the Wolf Parade’s seminal debut, which just received a deluxe reissue.
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What is Apologies to the Queen Mary?
Released in September 2005, Apologies to the Queen Mary is the massively-acclaimed full-length debut from Canadian indie rock outfit Wolf Parade. Produced by Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, who first signed the band to Sub Pop as an A&R man, the album was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize in 2006, sold in huge numbers and is widely celebrated as one of the most influential indie albums of the 2000s. After turning 10 years old last fall, the record was just reissued in deluxe format, coinciding with the band’s 2016 reunion tour and the release of their brand new Wolf Parade – EP 4.
What does it sound like?
Even a decade after its release, Apologies the the Queen Mary is a jolting listen, from the abrasive shots and yells of opener “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” to the throbbing exit of “This Heart’s On Fire.”
Co-fronted by indie veterans keyboardist Spencer Krug and guitarist Dan Boeckner, who share songwriting and singing duties, the idiosyncratic quartet’s sound combines traditional rock band setup with drum machines, synthesizers, twisted sonic manipulations and their peculiar vocals. Stealing tricks from the likes of Pixies, Talking Heads, Tom Waits and Thin White Duke-era Bowie, the effect is a jarring aesthetic potpourri of controlled violence, tortured angst, religious fervor, and brittle, eerie, off-kilter melodies and rhythms.
With its manic singing and barbed harmonics, Isaac Brock’s touch is felt all over the record. Not unlike how fellow Montreal breakouts Arcade Fire were then perfecting the intimate indie rock that feels suited for stadiums, practically every song has an anthemic, sing-out-loud quality that manages to seem simultaneously punk rock and high theater. It’s a thrilling album without an ounce of fat on it.
Why should I care?
First and foremost, Apologies to the Queen Mary is an essential paragon in the indie rock cannon. Album cuts like ”Modern World,” “Grounds For Divorce,” “Shine A Light,” “I’ll Believe In Anything,” “This Heart’s On Fire” may as well be considered bona fide classics in their own right. Outlets including Pitchfork, PopMatters and Stylus have ranked the record high on their lists of the best albums of the 2000s.
Moreover, Apologies to the Queen Mary epitomizes a special moment that occurred in indie rock in the mid-2000s, when the popularization of blogs and a dissatisfaction with mainstream monotony helped carve a special, oddly marketable platform for quirky bands like The Shins and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. That same period witnessed a particularly rich outpour of creativity from Canada, with great international acclaim directed at such acts as Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, Stars, Metric, Islands, Feist and of course Arcade Fire. While recent trends have created a more porous and blurred divide between popular and alternative music, the unlikely success of decidedly non-pop projects like Wolf Parade was a huge coup for independent music.
Where do I hear more?
Even if Wolf Parade were cursed by the intense expectations following their masterpiece debut, their subsequent two albums – At Mount Zoomer (2008) and EXPO 86 (2010) – are chock full of great songs that push their penchant for experimentation to a new level. Their four self-titled EPs, the first two of which are available digitally for the first time on the new Queen Mary deluxe edition, are also well worth a listen.
Few bands have as intricate a network of friends as Wolf Parade. This has a lot to do with the myriad of additional projects that its members have put out over the years. Spencer Krug in particular has had an incredibly prolific run in notable bands that include Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes, Swan Lake and Moonface, while fellow serial collaborator Dan Boeckner has been a crucial member of such acts as Handsome Furs, Divine Fits and Atlas Strategic. Guitarist/percussionist Dante DeCaro has played in Hot Hot Heat and currently fronts Johnny and the Moon. Drummer Arlen Thompson and former synth man Hadji Bakara both worked with Arcade Fire. These projects link them to other veterans like Destroyer, Spoon, The New Pornographers, and all the aforementioned acts.
And after going on an “indefinite hiatus” in 2011, Wolf Parade are back with a new EP and on tour all summer, suggesting there could be more to come from them yet.