WOLF PARADE with THESE PATIENTS and DANTE DECARO at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Monday (October 17), $12 (sold out). 416-598-4753, www.rootmeansquare.ca.
Nearly a year ago, Montreal's Wolf Parade were on their way to play a hugely anticipated show in Toronto when their van flipped over on a patch of black ice, leaving them broken, bleeding and stranded.
That's not actually the truth: in fact, the anti-rock star indie posse were leaving La Belle Province for Lee's Palace one freezing Friday last December when their car sputtered to a halt and they had to abort the mission. But by the time the story reached me, sweaty and expectant in the club, the boys were described as gravely injured in a Great Canadian Indie Rock Tragedy.
Such is the twisted fate of Wolf Parade, a band uncomfortable with even the idea of A-list fame who find themselves wrestling with a massive dose of prematurely ejaculated buzz. The unfortunate part of their sudden notoriety is that it detracts from the reason everyone should love them - the guys write really, really great songs.
"It's like the perfect storm," keyboardist and one of Wolf Parade's two songwriter/frontmen Spencer Krug offers ruefully. "There's the Arcade Fire factor, and then there's the Montreal music scene, and then there's Isaac Brock (the Modest Mouse mainman produced their debut LP for Sub Pop). Nothing seems to have anything to do with the music."
Krug has just neatly summarized the three-point model of "indie cred" that most frequently gets attached to the Wolf Parade name. The day we talk, it's a full three weeks before their album hits stores, but as Krug acknowledges, that hasn't stopped folks from sharpening their knives in anticipation of the torrent of backlash that follows in the wake of any cult band after widespread success.
"A blogger's gotta blog, yo," he laughs. "I love the idea that it's not even a question that there's gonna be backlash, like it's just a matter of time, like there are bloggers poised over their keyboards, waiting for the moment to strike.
"I've heard some cutting remarks, but you can't confuse backlash with the fact that some people just aren't gonna like you. I like it when people say they don't like the music - at least they've listened to the album."
Apologies To The Queen Mary is the best possible result of four (live, they've become five) ex-hardcore kids who've decided to ditch a typical aggro-punk assault. They're channelling their righteous rage, heartache and disillusionment into echoing analog synths, chiming guitars and stunningly raw melodies that insinuate themselves into your brain like earworms.
Against Arlen Thompson's clattering percussion and the keening buzz of unsung hero Hadji Bakara's deft electronic manipulation, Krug and his guitar-playing co-vocalist Dan Boeckner build tension through their contrasting howls. Boeckner directs his obsession with old Motown recordings into a ragged soul-man growl, while Krug's elastic yelp injects a kind of manic, urgent, about-to-crack energy into oblique narratives spattered with images of ghosts, blood and bone and songs that dance around societal alienation.
If you're inclined to play compare-and-contrast, you can still find much rougher, crunchier demo versions of several tracks (including the gorgeous Dinner Bells and This Heart's On Fire) on their newmusiccanada.com page. Despite rumours that the members of Wolf Parade weren't entirely pleased with Brock's cleaning-up influence on the album's production, Krug insists he cringes whenever he hears those earlier demos.
"Listening to them it's like looking at a photo of yourself naked," he begins. "If other people looked at a photo of me naked, they'd see other things or find other things funny."
A bigger shift in the current Wolf Parade live sound comes from their addition of a second guitarist, who just happens to be Dante DeCaro. Boeckner used to scoff at DeCaro's old band, Hot Hot Heat, whom he dismissed as post-punk poseurs who were just ripping off Wire. But it seems bridges have been mended, everyone's pals, and DeCaro helps the Parade pull off the multiple guitar lines you can hear on the recording.
Or does he?
"I've gotten in trouble for talking about Dante," says Krug, as DeCaro walks into the room. "I actually don't know this Dante character people keep talking about. Our new guitarist is called Valentino - this Dante sounds a bit shifty."