Show Spotlight: Wolf Parade @ 9:30 Club, 2/22/20
Today, Ben spotlights this weekend's Wolf Parade show at the 9:30 Club.
What’s old is new: Late-aughts faves Wolf Parade’s stripped-down lineup marches into DC in support of new Sub Pop album Thin Mind
When I was a teenager, I had a friend who was very into Big Audio Dynamite. I wasn’t really a huge fan; my early adolescent musical tastes veered more towards Anthrax and thrash metal than second-wave punk/lo-fi UK house/dub mashups, but I was mildly fascinated by the idea that BIG had dubbed itself Big Audio Dynamite II when Mick Jones pulled a group back together in 1991. I didn’t know bands could have sequels.
While they haven’t dropped a Roman numeral into their title, the guys in Wolf Parade could well have gone that route after re-emerging from a five-year break in 2016 with an eponymous EP and 2017’s subsequent full-length record, Cry Cry Cry.
The band’s current incarnation—guitarist/vocalist Dan Boeckner, drummer Arlen Thompson, and vocalist/keyboardist Spencer Krug—is hitting the road in support of its brand-new Sub Pop release, Thin Mind, and our nation's capital is one of the first stops for our Canadian friends.
Wolf Parade hits town on Saturday, Feb. 22 for an early show at the 9:30 Club (815 V St. NW). Labelmates and fellow British Columbians Jo Passed, whose sound is described as “fucked-up Beatles,” will open. Tickets are $30 and doors open at 6 pm.
“This is the last show we’ll play for a long time,” Boeckner told a Toronto audience in 2010, and he wasn’t kidding.
Wolf Parade was one of the indie darlings of the late aughts, hand-picked by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock to be the next supernova in legendary tastemaker Sub Pop’s starry constellation.
And star they did, dropping a trio of albums into the Billboard 200 (two—2008’s At Mount Zoomer and 2010’s Expo 86—into the top 50) before personal and financial issues forced them to split.
Consider Wolf Parade’s circumstances circa 2011, outlined here by The Globe and Mail’s Michael Barclay:
“But a high profile didn’t pay many bills. Drummer Arlen Thompson didn’t quit his part-time job until six years into the band’s career. Equipment was constantly on the verge of breaking down. ‘We were broke,’ singer and guitarist Dan Boeckner says, “so we couldn’t spend any money on equipment. Our gear was objectively terrible. But we tried to use that as an aesthetic. I didn’t have a proper case for my guitar until after we’d toured the first album. I’d just wrap it in a sleeping bag…’ Wolf Parade never had a manager, or an accountant – decisions that came back to bite them when they realized they owed a bunch of back taxes to both Canadian and U.S. governments in 2011. It’s not entirely a coincidence that they went on hiatus the same year.”
Relatable! It’s not like they quit music, as Boeckner strung together relatively high-profile, in the indie sense of the phrase, projects like Handsome Furs, Divine Fits, and Operators. Krug moved to Scandinavia, released solo work under the moniker Moonface, and re-ignited his passion for piano. Thompson sat in on an Arcade Fire recording session, did a little production work, and launched a career as an electrician.
Then came 2016, and Wolf Parade 2: Older and Wiser began appearing on stages near you.
Thin Mind arrives in 2020 not as a concept record but more as a record with a concept, a commentary on “...the weird kind of liminal state that we all kind of live in now,” Boeckner recently told The Aquarian’s Dan Alleva. “Sort of 50/50 meets space meets non-meets space. Technology is the platform where that space has been created, but I don’t think there’s a name for the sort of psychological or synaptic burn out that that we’re all experiencing living in this bizarre liminal space; sort of one half in, one half out.”
While the reviews have been mixed, it’s definitely Wolf Parade: “10 tracks of scrappy, synth-layered but guitar-forward indie rock wrapped around ideas about technology,” as Paste’s Andy Crump writes after deeming the album “pretty good.”
Now Toronto’s Stuart Berman was kinder, giving the record four out of five stars while noting “...Thin Mind marks a return to Wolf Parade’s original three-piece lineup...and the group have downsized their sound accordingly, largely excising the displays of proggy sprawl that have always been a feature of their records in favour of a more immediate, pop-focused attack. If Cry Cry Cry had the feel of a band shaking off the cobwebs and getting used to each other’s company once again, Thin Mind leaves no doubt about Wolf Parade’s continued vitality.”
There you have it. Decide for yourself when Wolf Parade marches into DC. Tickets are available online.