Record Reviews 

In 2005, Wolf Parade emerged as one of the most popular bands in Montreal's bustling indie-rock scene, second only to the Arcade Fire and sharing DNA with Final Fantasy, Picastro, and the Besnard Lakes. Their debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, was produced by Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock and hung on the alternating vocals between Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug, who claims one of indie-rock's most distinctive yelps. That year, they seemed to rewrite indie dance-punk as frenetic paranoia music that could nevertheless accommodate a sense of noisy grandeur.

In the intervening years, Wolf Parade has spawned countless offshoots, including Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, Swan Lake, Megasoid, Johnny & the Moon, and the still-active Frog Eyes. Perhaps they have stretched themselves too thin locally. Their follow-up, At Mount Zoomer, lacks the nervy zip of its predecessor. Instead of getting in your face, these new songs occasionally sound content just to sit there, thanks largely to the band's too-slick production, which buffs away too many of their rough edges and drains the chemistry between Boeckner and Krug.

"Fine Young Cannibals" devolves into a staid guitar solo that recalls Stephen Malkmus' jam-band noodling, and the mid-tempo "Bang Your Drum" never lives up to its title. If Apologies was both a cerebral and a physical experience — heady art-rock that wanted you dancing — At Mount Zoomer is too brainy and insufficiently rhythmic. When the two singers trade off vocals on "Kissing the Beehive" and break into a tense, bass-driven groove to close out the album, it's too little, too late.

Wolf Parade may have softened their art-rock attack, but their artillery can nevertheless be as deadly as ever. Hadji Bakara's buzzing synths rip "Language City" to tatters, and stand-out "California Dreamer" alternates between Boeckner's restrained verses and headlong refrains, constantly shifting and feinting to keep you off-guard. Likewise, "An Animal in Your Case" dives and swoops dramatically, its din of dirty guitars and blaring synths pushing Boeckner's vocals beyond their usual mania. Far from a sophomore slump, At Mount Zoomer is the dreaded, difficult follow-up — more demanding but less rewarding. ­

— Stephen Deusner

Grade: B

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