A six-year band hiatus is nothing unheard of, but it was easy to believe that Wolf Parade was gone for good, if only because frontmen Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner were so immersed in other projects. Since Wolf Parade’s “indefinite hiatus” was announced in 2010, Boeckner released one album with Handsome Furs and another with the newly formed Divine Fits, while Krug pumped out a total of four LPs as the sole member of Moonface.
Yet only four months after surprising fans with the announcement of their first show in five years, the formerly defunct Canadian supergroup has shared a fresh EP. EP 4 is the first extended play since before Apologies to the Queen Mary, Wolf Parade’s 2005 debut album that would go down in aughts indie rock history. Much like those before it, the most recent Wolf Parade EP is a teaser for the newest incarnation of the band: promising, but not totally realized.
As always, Krug and Boeckner trade off on lead vocals, with Krug’s “Mr. Startup” and “C’est La Vie Way” sandwiched between Boeckner’s “Automatic” and “Floating World.” All four tracks are distinctly recognizable as Wolf Parade, despite the individual band members’ wide range of musical oeuvres. Krug reins in his warbling vocals and the protracted play times of Sunset Rubdown and Moonface, while Boeckner uses the stripped-down electro-pop of his other projects to shape a leaner, more controlled version of the prog rock sounds that we heard on Wolf Parade’s underrated Expo 86. Krug is operating more like Boeckner, and Boeckner is meeting Krug halfway. This homogenization is a shame; we lose the most outrageous of what each artist has to offer. Nevertheless, the tighter songwriting is an indicator of a more experienced Wolf Parade then the one that left us in 2010. After so long apart, the band’s ability to blend their unique talents is a testament to their virtuosity, not only in musicianship, but also in teamwork.
There are moments during each track on EP 4 where we could easily be listening to any Wolf Parade record (particularly during the high hats on “Mr. Startup” and the frantic, up-tempo stretches of “C’est La Vie Way”), but overall the EP fails to fully ignite. The highlight is a satisfyingly updated version of “Floating World”, with an intro and chorus that feel like callbacks to Apologies’ “Shine a Light”, but which fizzles as the song continues. We first heard “Floating World” back 2014 as a track on the OST for Adult World, where a soundtrack by Handsome Furs was the sole redeeming feature of the otherwise melodramatic and whiny Emma Roberts / John Cusack film. But while the 2014 version of “Floating World” was just Boeckner and his guitar, the “Floating World” of EP 4 sports punchier vocals, an extended set of lyrics, and the full force of a four-piece band with crisp production, real drums, and a lot of individual skill. In short, “Floating World” is Boeckner’s solo work being given the full Wolf Parade treatment that we’ve been missing all these years.
Ultimately, EP 4 is less of an explosive comeback than a reassuring reorientation to Wolf Parade as a musical group, both for audiences and for the band itself. But despite the short playing time and lack of Apologies-caliber hits, the cohesive and polished tracks suggest that Wolf Parade is older, wiser, and already back in its groove – and that the best may be yet to come.